110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Andrews
posted Jul 9, 2013 - 12:24:21pm
Tropical Storm Chantal is chugging its way from the southeast Caribbean northwest at 29 mph, and should move over the central and northern Bahamas this weekend. The National Hurricane Service predicts Chantal could arrive in the Atlantic waters of East Central Florida early next week.
"Now is an excellent time to review your seasonal hurricane action plan ... and gather any remaining supplies for your hurricane kit that you might still need," the National Weather Service advised residents today.
Volusia County's new Emergency Management Director Jim Judge said the county is ready.
"We're monitoring the storm extremely closely," he said.
Judge noted that the storm is still a long way off, "with 200 miles of potential error. It could stay away, or this could be our time for it," Judge said.
He will be watching to see if the storm weakens as it moves over Haiti and some of the islands.
Now is the time to check your supplies and be ready, if the tropical storm should hit Volusia County, he added, in agreement with the National Weather Service.
Judge took the job in May, as former Director Charlie Craig retired.
As he reported for work, the county's new Emergency Operations Center on Tiger Bay Road was just opening. The $21 million, 43,000-square-foot facility is designed to withstand hurricane-force winds.
It also houses emergency dispatchers, who will live and work in the protected location during emergencies. And, the center offers a central, state-of-the-art location to coordinate services during emergencies. It even has bunk room for emergency workers and a cafeteria that can be activated.
The Emergency Operations Center is activated when a tropical-storm or hurricane warning is posted, and at any other time the possibility of emergency conditions is anticipated.
Once the center is activated, all the county departments that play a role in managing a disaster and its aftermath are called into service, including Fire Services, the Sheriff's Office, the Road and Bridge Division, and Animal Control.
Members of the Volusia County Council also staff the Operations Center when it's activated. They make crucial decisions about declaring a state of emergency or martial law.
Under such circumstances, Judge and the other officials will take directions from County Manager Jim Dinneen, who will get guidance from the elected officials.
A number of mini-command centers will be set up within the Operations Center. The Volusia County Health Department will coordinate the services of hospitals and doctors.
Judge has a background in managing emergency-medical services, which will help with directing and coordinating emergency-medical-services personnel.
He suggested that, as prepared as the county may be to handle extreme weather events, residents should also prepare on their own.
For example, Judge said, residents should have enough food, water and other necessities to last five to seven days after an emergency — not three to five days' worth, as is often recommended.
He recommended residents stock up on canned food, water, batteries, battery-operated or hand-crank radios, wood panels for windows, and other needs before a storm, not after, when supplies may be scarce.
Tips from the top
Volusia County Emergency Management Director Jim Judge offered the following tips for preparing for a hurricane or other extreme-weather event:
• Stock enough food, medicines, water, pet food, batteries and battery-operated devices to last five to seven days.
• Have a staff member from the Emergency Management Division speak to your nonprofit organization or business staff, to help create an emergency plan for your group. They're available seven days a week. Call 386-736-5980 or email email@example.com.
• If you're using a cellphone application for first-aid or tornado warnings, review and possibly print the information available from the app before the storm hits, when cellphone service may be lost.
• If a tornado is approaching, wearing a bicycle helmet when you take shelter in a safe area of your home or other safe room can add another layer of protection.
• If you must go to a shelter with a pet, know that the Volusia County Fairgrounds shelter will accept pets.
• Visit the Emergency Management website to get information on shelters, evacuation routes, using a safe room, and planning for disasters.
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