Third Annual Rural County Summit

By: Charlene Cristobal
July 9, 2014

HAVANA, Fla. -- The 2013 wildfire in Arizona, the 2011 Blue Ribbon wildfire in North Florida...all major disasters in the past five years that have not only required emergency response, but have also taken the lives of responders.

"In '98, some of those fire years where it was extremely intensive in Florida," says State Forester Jim Karels "It would've made a difference, it would've helped." What would've helped was learning from leaders around the country about how to respond to devastating disasters. Hundreds of emergency responder teams were in attendance for the third annual Rural County Summit.

"From a fatality end," Karels says, "we lost two firefighters in Florida in 2011 and knowing some of that ahead of time would've helped us be better prepared."

Just one focus of the summit was to discuss the struggles small community fire responders have and how to improve.

"When you learn from these guys and you hear what they went through," says Major Shawn Wood of the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office. "They're gonna tell you what they did good, what they did bad and what was ugly. And you wanna learn those things so, when you go through the process, you have an idea where you're going."

"As much as anything," Karels says, "it brings the people that have experienced it themselves, and that's important in that they can tell these people the true life issues that happen, so that they're prepared. You never know when it happens."

Some other topics covered at the summit were community impacts of disasters and even post traumatic stress disorder for first responders.

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