CLEARWATER – This has been one of the quietest hurricane seasons on record. More than halfway through the season, there had been only two named hurricanes when the Clearwater City Council met on Sept. 16, and neither of them came anywhere near Clearwater.
But city officials know that they can’t depend on luck alone so, on June 18, they had approved a Post-Disaster Redevelopment Plan. At that time, the city council asked staffers to provide an overview of the city’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan. At the council’s Sept. 16 work session, Earl Gloster, the city’s Director of Solid Waste and General Services, presented that overview.
“The city of Clearwater Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan is designed to be implemented to manage the consequences of any natural, technological, or manmade disaster – other than war – affecting the city of Clearwater and its citizens,” Gloster told the council. “For purposes of the CEMP, a disaster is defined as ‘an event that causes or threatens to cause multiple and concurrent emergencies and a significant disruption of public services, as well as the potential to cause large loss of life and property damage.’”
Clearwater’s CEMP is the bottom rung of a ladder that includes the Pinellas County CEMP, the State of Florida CEMP and the National Response Plan administered by the federal National Incident Management System. The bigger the disaster, the higher on the ladder Clearwater would have to go for assistance.
The Clearwater CEMP provides for four phases of emergency management: preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery. It incorporates the county’s Vulnerability Analysis and Hazard Vulnerability Matrix, which identifies hurricanes, flooding, hazardous materials, tornadoes and lightning strikes as the greatest threats to Pinellas County municipalities.
The Clearwater plan identifies the city’s responsibilities and methods for dealing with emergencies. It also outlines the general role and responsibilities of city departments in preparing for, responding to or recovering from an emergency or disaster.
Planning for disaster mitigation and relief is the responsibility of the city’s Emergency Management Coordinating Committee and its Emergency Management Coordinator.
During an emergency, the Incident Command Structure would be employed and the city’s Emergency Operation Center might be staffed, in 12-hour shifts, at a level from 1, the lowest, to 3, the highest. Before the actual warning is given, 24 staffers from various city departments might be in the EOC, getting it ready. That number would drop to eight at the height of the emergency, and go back to 24 in the recovery phase.
Throughout the process, the city would maintain its Intranet system so that employees from various departments could coordinate their efforts. The city also would maintain Internet links to the county, live weather reports, the Red Cross, and emergency updates and advisories. During the event, it also would post live advisories on its website, MyClearwater.com.
The Post-Disaster Redevelopment Plan adopted on June 18 does not address immediate disaster response and emergency operations. Instead, it sets goals regarding housing and structural repairs, infrastructure and public utility recovery, environmental restoration, economic resumption and land use and development.
In the “What’s next?” portion of his presentation, Gloster included updated situational data using the latest demographics, a vulnerability analysis, and a new hurricane evacuation study. He also mentioned a Post-Disaster Redevelopment Plan, which includes a local mitigation strategy, infrastructure inventory, and a streamlined permitting process to expedite post-disaster rebuilding.