Nothing tests the mettle of a governor like a natural disaster, with hurricanes being among the worst. Emergency efforts include everything from rescue and recovery of victims, to restoration of power, to distribution of needed supplies, to rebuilding cities affected by the storm.
Hurricane Ian, a massive Category 4 storm, made landfall in Florida on Wednesday afternoon, but the worst may be yet to come with storm surges, massive power outages that could last for days, and major rainfall expected.
During a press conference on Wednesday evening, Gov. Ron DeSantis warned that Floridians are still “in a very hazardous situation.” But he assured residents that the state is making a “great logistical effort to put all hands on deck” with a “massive surge of personnel and supplies to help those in need.”
Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) director Kevin Guthrie told reporters that DeSantis has hardly left his side over the last few days and worked with him until late last night. “The governor is extremely committed to being involved in the hurricane response,” he said.
On Tuesday afternoon, DeSantis’s office sent out a press release outlining the state’s response to the storm — and it’s extraordinary. Not only does his plan include assisting with practical needs like the provision of food and water, but the governor has also ordered agencies to cut red tape to ensure that people get the help they need, including waiving rules that prevent people from refilling their prescriptions early, and releasing SNAP benefits (food stamps) early to allow people to stock up on food ahead of the hurricane. DeSantis has also ensured that 100% of senior care homes have generators, and the state has supplies staged and ready to be deployed the moment it’s safe for first responders to enter the affected areas.
Many on the left — who are predisposed to hate DeSantis — have been caught hoping he’ll fail and predicting a massive death toll — because that’ll show the cons or something. But a quick glance at the governor’s emergency preparations gives lie to their predictions.
State preparation and response efforts include:
The Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) response:
- FDEM has activated the State Assistance Information Line (SAIL) to provide an additional resource for Floridians to receive up-to-date information regarding Hurricane Ian.
- Liaisons are being identified and deployed to counties to provide on-site response assistance and to conduct damage assessments after the storm.
- An Incident Management Team (IMT) from Ohio is en route to Florida to ensure additional support for response and recovery efforts after the storm.
- FDEM is deploying several hundred shelter support staff to address staffing needs in counties that have opened their Special Needs hurricane shelters.
- FDEM is leading the State Emergency Response Team (SERT) for the Hurricane Ian response, with more than 350 SERT members staffing the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC).
- The Division has received more than 600 resource requests for Hurricane Ian and fulfilled 495. Requests are currently being processed and are either en route or being mobilized. This includes the coordination of resources such as: trucks of food and water, generators and water pumps.
- 160 truckloads (85 loads of water and 75 loads of MREs) are ready to deploy, with some of this supply already en route to Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.
- Several hundred generators and pumps, in addition to debris equipment, have been staged for response and recovery efforts.100,000 tarps to protect homes and allow more residents to stay at home rather than in a public shelter.
- Five Florida Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Teams are activated, and will be prepared to deploy to impacted areas. Federal USAR Teams from Virginia, Texas and Indiana stand ready to assist in response and recovery efforts, and a federal USAR Team from Ohio is currently mobilizing.
- FDEM is currently coordinating the provision of meals for first responders staged in Orange County.
- FDEM has begun setting up a Logistical Staging Area in Polk County and is identifying potential additional staging areas and points of distribution to ensure food and water are readily available if counties request it.
- FDEM has loaded 360 trailers with over 2 million meals and over one million gallons of water in preparation for distribution to impacted areas.
- FDEM is in constant communication with all 67 county emergency management offices and state agencies to coordinate protective actions and needed resources ahead of potential storm impacts.FDEM is coordinating with utilities to ensure crews are prepared to respond and restore power. Utility providers have more than 30,000 linemen staged and prepared for power restoration efforts.
Florida National Guard
- A total of 5,000 Florida Guardsmen are being activated to State Active Duty and pre-positioned at armories across the state for Tropical Storm Ian response operations. 2,000 Guardsmen from Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina are also being activated to assist.
- The Florida Guard has mobilized and is on standby with five Route Clearance Teams and Aviation assets.
- The Florida National Guard is well-equipped, with assets including high-wheeled vehicles, helicopters, boats, generators and more.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE)
- FDLE regional support and logistics teams throughout the state are preparing to deploy personnel and equipment for a ready response to the aftermath of the storm.
- FDLE has started pre-staging equipment and mobile command posts at strategic locations. Teams with chainsaws, tarps, and other supplies are assembling.
Florida Department of Health (DOH)
- The Department and Agency for Health Care Administration have initiated Patient Movement Mission to support medical transport and evacuations of health care facilities. This mission is evacuating 15 hospitals in areas of anticipated landfall. The Department continues to assess and support any additional necessary evacuations. This mission also supports the evacuation of over 100 health care facilities.
- Nearly 400 ambulances, paratransit busses, and support vehicles are responding to areas of anticipated landfall.
- The Department has prepared for Special Needs Shelter operations to begin in areas of anticipated landfall. A press release has been deployed statewide for additional information on special needs shelters.
- The State Surgeon General has signed Emergency Order 22-001 waiving statutory procurement requirements to ensure the Department is able to deploy necessary action due to Hurricane Ian. This can be found here.
- The State Surgeon General has signed a letter to allow staff of the Department and Agency for Health Care Administration to travel past curfews across state lines to conduct any necessary health and safety actions.
- The Department has coordinated with the Office of Insurance Regulation to distribute an alert regarding permitted early prescription refills during a State of Emergency. This alert was sent to health insurers, managed care organizations, health entities, and licensed health care providers. The alert can be found here.
- The Department has coordinated with Federal partners to support the deployment of nearly 100 individuals through various health and medical teams. These teams stand ready in Orlando, Atlanta, and Warner Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia.
- The Florida Department of Health (Department) continues to coordinate across 67 county health departments on any necessary preparation resources, in coordination with county emergency managers.
Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA)
- AHCA is requesting all health care providers report their census, available beds, evacuation status and generator status information.
- Patient Movement Mission (DOH 4052) is activated. This mission is a combined by AHCA, along with FHA, FHCA, LeadingAge, Florida Senior Living and Florida Assisted Living Associations.
- The Agency sent a Medicaid Provider Alert outlining Key Medicaid Information for Fee-For-Service and Managed Care Providers during Hurricane Ian.
- AHCA has activated the Emergency Patient Look-Up System (E-PLUS).
- Special needs shelters for 16 counties are able to utilize the system to retrieve patient medical records. E-PLUS is also available to assist medical providers and emergency response personnel with locating missing or displaced persons after the storm.
- The State Surgeon General has signed a letter to allow staff of the Department and Agency for Health Care Administration to travel past curfews across state lines to conduct any necessary health and safety actions, this can be found here.
- 80.13% of all facilities have reported into the Health Facility Reporting System.
- AHCA has completed 296 onsite visits in Nursing Homes and ALFs that were previously identified as out of compliance with generator requirements.
- AHCA is working to identify Home Medical Equipment providers that can assist with supplying oxygen supplies to Special Needs Shelters.
- The Agency will be partnering with Florida Health Care Association and Florida Hospital Association to initiate statewide calls with long term care facilities and hospitals.
- As of today, 100% of operating long-term care facilities have a generator on-site. The Generator Status Map for long-term care facilities is available here.
Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD)
- APD hosted a virtual meeting with its partner associations to update them on storm activities and to offer assistance, if needed.
- APD Regions have reached out to 2,135 group homes to ensure there are no unmet needs.
- In APD’s Suncoast Region, more than 50 group homes are in mandatory Evacuation Zones have enacted their Emergency Preparedness plans and are evacuating.
Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF)
Early Learning Coalitions have closed in affected counties.
- DCF has been working with contracted partners, including, Managing Entities, Community Based Care lead agencies, and child care providers to ensure Florida’s communities remain apprised of all storm updates and are making preparations for potential impacts.
- DCF is also ensuring all Mental Health Treatment Facilities and methadone treatment programs are prepared for the storm.
- DCF’s federal waiver request to release SNAP benefits early in preparation for Hurricane Ian was approved, and food assistance benefits will be released earlier than scheduled to Floridians that may be impacted by Hurricane Ian.
- DOEA service providers around the state are in progress or have completed check-in and informational calls to their senior clients.
- Area Agencies on Aging that are expected to be impacted by Hurricane Ian have been distributing shelf-stable meals to their home delivery meal clients.
- Area Agencies on Aging in the affected areas are coordinating with other agencies to answer local Elder Helpline calls during power outages (1-800-96-ELDER).
Florida Department of Veterans Affairs (FDVA)
- Veterans enrolled in VA Health Care in need of routine or urgent care services in the projected path of the storm can contact VA Health Connect.
- The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System will close several locations for in person and procedure appointments.
Florida Department of Education (DOE)
- Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. communicated to all Superintendents and College Presidents that the DOE stands ready to assist if needed before, during, and after the storm.
- The Florida Department of Education is consistently updating their website with school district closures, as well as State University System and Florida College System Closures.
- Closures have been announced in 56 school districts, 23 Florida College System institutions and 10 State Universities.
State University System of Florida
Florida Gulf Coast University, University of North Florida, Florida International University, and Florida Atlantic University have canceled classes.
Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)
- Tolls have been suspended on roadways in Central Florida.
- Emergency Shoulder Use (ESU) has been implemented on the I-4 corridor to move people east. ESU is allowing motorists to use the left shoulder of I-4 from U.S. 41 to S.R. 417. The extra lane of travel adds capacity to move higher volumes of traffic and helps to increase traffic flow.
- All ports currently have adequate fuel supplies and are staging appropriate measures to be well-positioned after the storm in order to quickly reinstate operations and keep fuel supplies moving.
- While some airport facilities have scheduled closures, individual airlines may decide to cease flights earlier than that.
- HART suspending transit service in Zones A and B.
- HART, Pasco, and LeeTRAN suspended fares
- Transit agencies focused on life-sustaining trips
- Amtrak service canceled south of Jax September 27-29
- Regional Rail (Florida Central, Florida Midland, Florida Northern and Port Manatee Railroads) will shut down operations beginning September 27 at midnight.
Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV)
- The Florida Highway Patrol is assisting FDOT with limited Emergency Shoulder Use on Interstate 4 from the 3-mile marker in Hillsborough County to the 63-mile marker in Osceola County to increase traffic capacity for evacuating motorists.
DeSantis is clearly not phoning it in. The list above shows a governor who knows how to wield the levers of power for good — to save lives and alleviate suffering. Our prayers go out to Floridians affected by Ian. Stay safe out there, folks.