Teams were able to move quickly from disaster response mode to recovery operations with proper planning and preparation.
SARASOTA, Fla. – Sarasota first responders, many of whom are also affected, are receiving praise from their leaders for their response to Hurricane Ian.
It’s been exactly one month since Ian drove through southwest Florida and left many communities in places like Lee, Charlotte and Sarasota counties unrecognizable.
Cleanup and recovery efforts are expected to continue for several months. Sarasota County Emergency Services officials have provided updates on the process so far.
They said their teams were able to move quickly from disaster response mode to recovery operations with proper planning and preparation.
“I am extremely humbled by the amount of work this team is doing,” said Sarasota County Emergency Services Manager Richard Collins.
Sarasota Emergency Services first responders swung into action in the days leading up to Hurricane Ian’s landfall on Wednesday, September 28, and after.
“We announced our evacuations on Monday and starting Tuesday we opened all of our shelters at the same time,” Collins said.
“We used programs we developed to transport people from various locations to shelters if needed,” he added. “We have opened medical dependent shelters in and through all of this. All of our employees have taken on these different roles to take care of our community and I will tell you they have done a phenomenal job of taking care of our community. .”
The storm came with Category 4 winds that exceeded 150 mph and left streets littered with downed trees and utility poles.
The hurricane destroyed many homes and left many more roofless
“We had trucks on the road picking up debris within a week of the storm and picked up over 1.2 million yards of debris,” Collins said.
According to county officials, this amount of plant debris collected is equivalent to 10 years of normal vegetation removal and is enough to fill more than 322 Olympic size swimming pools.
The vegetation was brought to the central dump where it is turned into mulch.
“Our contractors will actually remove it and reuse it for agricultural use and compost and things like that so it doesn’t impact the capacity of our county central landfill,” the solid waste coordinator said. of Sarasota, Wendi Crisp.
Officials said working hand-in-hand with faith-based community partners such as the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and several community organizations as well as state and federal agencies has helped them care for the community and ensure his safety.
County leaders are beginning to review the execution of their plans and seek improvements.
“Our plans worked, how do we move people around, or are we going to go back and take a look at it? We might change some things to improve it a bit,” Collins said. “Could we do things that would make the process a little bit better.”
Various teams conduct what is called an “after action review” for which they would document the areas where deviations have occurred and those that need improvement.
The county estimated residential damage at around $135 million so far and warned against unscrupulous individuals. Some people have posed as nonprofit volunteers asking for donations or contractors looking to make repairs, but instead ask for money up front and disappear.
Officials also say the 311 contact center answered more than 25,000 calls and connected community members with valuable resources. Between 3,500 and 4,000 phone calls came in from North Port while their contact center was out of service.
If residents still need assistance with crisis cleaning, the deadline is November 4. They can call the crisis hotline at 311 to get on the list.
Meanwhile, collection of storm-related demolition and construction debris begins the first week of November.
“It’s going to take a while for things to get back to normal and further south it will take longer than here,” Collins said.