MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In the event a threatening storm prompts evacuations, shelters will open in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.
Of course, the pandemic has forced emergency managers to re-work the way evacuation centers and even Emergency Operations Centers will function.READ MORE: Royal Caribbean's 'Freedom Of The Seas' Completes Simulated Cruise, Returns To PortMiami
You won’t find the usual hustle and bustle at local Emergency Operations Centers during hurricane season, but that doesn’t mean emergency managers and their support staff aren’t hard at work.
“Our IT department developed a virtual EOC and so we tried it out a couple of times last year. It worked well,” said Miami-Dade Emergency Management Director Frank Rollason. “It’s very Wi-Fi dependent, as you can imagine with people working at a distance.”
“There will be a smaller number of them here,” said Tracy Jackson, the Regional Emergency Services and Communications director for Broward County. “But they will be here in the building. Numbers will just be reduced on account of social distancing. But when we activate, we will have everything we need to take care of the needs of the citizens.”
So if a storm threatens, rest assured there are plans in place in both Miami-Dade and Broward counties, plans that had to be tweaked last year on account of COVID.
“We’re just about where we were last year. The advantage we have, we think, is that a lot more people have been vaccinated,” Rollason told CBS 4 Anchor Lauren Pastrana. “But when you think about the demographics that normally come to our hurricane evacuation center, they’re probably in the area that has not been able to get the vaccine.”READ MORE: Coral Gables Man Refuses To Sell Family House Swallowed By Massive Development
“We’ll basically do what we did last year,” Rollason added. “If we have a category 1 or 2 heading our way, we’ll open up double the shelters we normally do, which will give us double the space so we can spread the people out.”
“The only thing that’s changed really is our attitudes about where we are,” Jackson said. “We still have COVID as a threat to the community and we are still taking steps to mitigate the spread. The EOC is still active. The longest activation in South Florida history, by the way, is 365 days plus. In any event, the EOC is still active and we’re working with the health department every day with the vaccine. But in terms of hurricanes, the things we learned about social distancing and PPE and temperature taking will still be in play this summer.”
Both emergency managers stress the importance of heeding evacuation orders and getting prepared now.
“Once we give an evacuation order for one of these areas, it’s because of water, not because of wind. And staying, you could be in danger,” Rollason said. “People are really in the mode that we don’t have to worry until August, September, and that’s not the case anymore. As long as that water’s hot, the climate doesn’t know anything about the calendar. It’s cooking. It’s cooking sooner and it’s lasting longer and the storms are stronger. It’s just when it’s going to be your turn.”
“If you’re hearing this and you haven’t already prepared, it’s a little late, but today’s a great day,” Jackson said. “Go to the store and gather the supplies. The season lasts six months, but you shouldn’t feel like you have six months to be ready. A storm can pop up quickly on the horizon and you help all of us stay safer if you’re ready to do what you need to do.”MORE NEWS: Postal Worker Shot At In Florida City; Suspect In Custody
If you do need to go to a shelter, take note that COVID testing and vaccines are not required at the evacuation centers. But if anyone is feeling sick, plans have been made to accommodate those people away from the other evacuees.