Emergencies obviously cannot be managed while they are on-going. Emergencies require pre-planning and the pre-positioning of resources that will be needed during and after the emergency itself. That is why Collier County, a coastal region on the tip of Florida, was able to accommodate residents at 20 schools to take refuge from the storm. Doubtless the facilities were outfitted with generators to maintain electric service and communications and the kitchens were stocked with emergency rations.
Of course, Collier County, which typically serves 47,000 students and housed 17,000 evacuees during Irma provides no basis for comparison to Glynn County, whom the Red Cross has ordered not to provide any shelters and considers sending people onto potentially flooded highways a better alternative. People killed on the highway outside the county don’t count, even if they were heading into the cone of influence.
After the fact, Glynn County discovered that the Brunswick High School served first-responders well, but the question remains why, given all the rebuilding of Glynn Academy, the Brunswick Middle School and Goodyear, as well as the new construction at Oglethorpe Point and Satille Marsh, those projects weren’t designed to resist the impact of water and wind.
It’s not rocket science. When Hurricane Andrew struck Homestead, Florida, it demonstrated that just following the building codes then in place, as only Habitat for Humanity did, kept the roofs from blowing off buildings. It also taught us that good code enforcement is definitely required because where that didn’t happen builders “saved” themselves a few bucks by attaching each shingle with two nails instead of four.
While here in Glynn County the community is dissatisfied about not being allowed back into the county to start cleaning up, the explanation for poor communications (rather than poor planning) we are supposed to swallow is that the officials requested 6 public relations people from the state and only got one! That’s why only two public service announcements a day were posted on the electronic web site for people whose electricity was out for a week. Who relies on electronic communications when everyone knows that even public buildings, sewage treatment plants and lift stations aren’t a priority to be kept up and running?
That Matthew visited last year and Irma visited this is instructive because it was the same old, same old. Sea island had power restored within a day. Elsewhere, including major intersections on Saint Simons, rotten wood poles came down last year and this year again.
We have to do better and some did. The Brunswick Housing Authority residence, for example, experienced no flooding, which no doubt pleased the majority of the residents who stayed behind. One hopes that before the new Burroughs/Mollette is constructed the plans will be checked to make sure the potential impact of water and wind have been taken into account.
For the rest, one hopes Glynn County will prepare an inventory of structures suitable for refuge and start planning for the next event.