Weather Awareness Guide for Daytona Beach

Disaster Preparedness

It's Everyone's Challenge

Emergency managers at all levels of government plan disaster response all year long, something they’d like to see most homeowners and businesses
think about as well, because, as many longtime Volusia and Flagler residents know, natural disasters aren’t confined to the official June 1- Nov. 30 hurricane season bracket.

Tornadoes, sinkholes, brush fires, semitrailer explosions and train wrecks can occur at any time and prompt evacuation orders at a moment’s notice.

But hurricanes receive the most preparation because of their ability to wreak widespread havoc across an entire region.And, this year, with forecasters calling for a less active hurricane season, emergency managers are concerned about complacency, fearing residents and businesses won’t adequately prepare.

“It doesn’t matter how many hurricanes there are. It matters which hurricanes hit you,” said Bryan Koon, Florida’s emergency management director. A growing complacency as the storms of the 2004 hurricane season grow more distant could also prompt a resistance to being prepared for the season, but local emergency managers hope it doesn’t.

“It is critical that we are all prepared for that one storm that does make its way to our back yard,” said Ryan Williams, project manager of operations for Volusia County Emergency Management.

Both the state and local emergency management offices have placed an increased emphasis on collaborating with businesses across Florida to make sure the private sector prepares for emergencies as well. That has been a strong focus for Koon since coming to work in Florida a little more than a year ago. He has worked in both private enterprise and government, having been the director of emergency management for Walmart after seven years with emergency management at the White House.

The landfall of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast in 2005, following a year that saw four hurricanes make landfall in Florida created a “paradigm shift,”Koon said, illustrating that it was important for government agencies
to work more closely with businesses.

“The government can’t and shouldn’t do it all,” Koon said. After a disaster, “Our goal is to help the community get back to the way it was as fast as possible,” he said in Daytona Beach in May. “We can’t do that alone.”

Koon first traveled the state to meet with the emergency management operations folks in each of the 67 counties. He’s also meeting with Florida businesses and hired a full-time private sector liaison. “We want to get them involved in the process,” Koon said. “The best way to do that is to engage them on the front end.”

The state is looking at developing better systems for exchanging information, Koon said, for example to help businesses know when schools are going to be open so their employees can come back to work and to let the state know instantly when businesses reopen after a disaster. Williams said a community’s ability to recover from a disaster “is reliant on the preparedness of the public and our local businesses.”

Businesses with workers who are more prepared at home are able to return to work faster,Williams said. “And businesses that are more able to weather the storm provide stability to their employees.” “The daunting task of preparing our whole community to overcome all hazards requires team approach,”Williams said, with business and community blending when it comes to the nuts and bolts of disaster resilience. “The whole community has an impact on the speed at which recovery takes place.”