As Hurricane Isaias threatens to impact Florida this weekend, on Thursday, state Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis highlighted the vital disaster response efforts of Florida’s fire service community including the state’s dedicated Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) teams.
Currently, there are seven US&R teams that are status level “green,” meaning they are prepared for deployment. Patronis’ Division of State Fire Marshal is the lead agency overseeing two Emergency Support Functions (ESF) at the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) during a disaster or state emergency. In dealing with the challenges of COVID-19, the staff supporting the SEOC was already activated.
“As we closely monitor…Isaias, I held a call today with fire chiefs from across Florida to ensure our first responders are prepared for the potential impacts of heavy rain, flooding, and strong winds to our state this weekend. Our dedicated Urban Search and Rescue Teams stand ready at a moment’s notice to deploy life-saving resources to impacted communities immediately following landfall. Although the path of this storm remains uncertain, it is imperative that you take this threat seriously as tropical storms can change course and intensify quickly. I encourage all Floridians to prepare now by visiting PrepareFL.com for important storm resources and tips,” Patronis said on Thursday.
In an effort to avoid the coronavirus and respond to this emergency, the agency is utilizing technology and teleworking to a higher degree. Moreover, some deployment strategies may be augmented to allow first responders to deploy directly from their homes. At the height of the pandemic, approximately 1,800 first responders were out-of-commission as many were quarantining but as that number continues drop by the hundreds, more firefighters are coming back online.