The state’s Emergency Operations Center became a familiar sight on TV during last year’s hurricanes, but this is the first time the Department of Education has brought in school officials from around Florida to see how it works firsthand.
Craig Fugate, Florida Emergency Management Director, says, "We are committed to getting schools open as rapidly as possible.”
Craig Fugate says reopening schools after a disaster is critical to restoring a sense of normalcy to devastated communities, but that was a major challenge for several counties.
Every district in Florida lost at least a day of school during last year’s hurricanes, and many lost a lot more than that. Fifty seven schools were destroyed or suffered major damage.
Escambia’s Steve Sharp says they didn’t anticipate the toll Hurricane Ivan would take on employees.
Steve says, “We couldn’t get a hold of anybody. We didn’t know where our drivers were; we didn’t know where a lot of our teachers were. Some of our principals couldn’t get back into town.”
Now Escambia is creating a shelter plan for key employees who have to evacuate, and finding new ways to keep in contact. Pasco County’s superintendent says her issue is getting schools better prepared to serve as shelters.
Heather Fiorentino, Pasco County Schools Superintendent, says, “We want to be sure, being that we have an elderly population, that we have the medical needs at those shelters that are going to be medically needy, and generators are there, on top of everything else.”
The goal is greater cooperation the next time Florida goes through a killer hurricane. The hope is that won’t be anytime soon.