One year since Irma, Alachua County officials say disaster plans are now stronger
It has been one year since Irma’s wrath hit Florida, and some officials in north central Florida say the storm made them more prepared for the future.
“It was traumatic experience but one that I think we definitely got stronger from in the end,” said Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe. “We are very happy with where Gainesville is today. We are completely recovered. And probably even a little bit stronger.”
Irma cost Alachua county over 6 million dollars—two thirds of which was just to remove debris.
“Right after hurricane Irma, we had debris on the side of every road for weeks and for months as we were trying to get to it,” said Chief Harold Theus of the Alachua County Fire Rescue. “But we had to contract with a lot of different storm and debris removal companies all across the state of Florida and even out of Florida to have that done.”
Theus says Alachua county has made a full recovery one year later.
“We’ve improved a lot of things when it comes to emergency management, Alachua County Fire Rescue and how we handle those types of disasters,” Theus said.
Theus says Irma forced Alachua county to open many more shelters than usual, which created a tighter relationship with schools and big businesses that could take people into their facilities.
“It hardened those plans operationally to make sure that we can house as many residents, not only here locally, but those that come in out of county from farther south to north to try to escape the hurricane,” Theus said. “We can house them efficiently and effectively in sheltering.”
As a result, plans were made to have more volunteers at each shelter so everyone could get the attention and help they needed.
Improvements have even been made to Alert Alachua, an app that emergency officials say everyone should have.
“The Alert Alachua app gives you the ability to know when there is severe weather coming your way, road closures, any significant event that impacts Alachua county, you can get notified about with Alert Alachua,” Theus said.
If another storm like Irma comes through, you can get constant notifications through ‘Alert Alachua’ about evacuation routes, open shelters and the latest information on the storm.