Government Preparation Key to Successfully Facing Hurricanes

 In Other

Hurricane Irma, one the biggest hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean in years, made its way toward Florida last weekend. The storm was expected to sweep through Orlando early Sunday evening through Monday morning.

Local and state governments braced themselves for the worst. On Sept. 5, Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency.

“This is a message to the people to take this seriously,” said Naim Kapucu, director of the School of Public Administration. He and other emergency management experts from the school spoke about Hurricane Irma last week.

While each county is responsible for preparing for natural disasters, declaring a state of emergency is a message to the national government that the impending threat is more than local and state governments can handle alone, Kapucu said.

“The governor doesn’t make this decision himself,” he said. “Governors consult regularly with professional emergency managers at cities and counties. And it’s a good thing to make an early decision, because a later decision could delay resources from the national government.”

Across the state, schools, organizations and city officials announced early closures and cancellations. Cities announced many offices would close early, events were postponed, schools were closed and UCF canceled its annual Family Weekend.

Chris Emrich, professor of public administration, predicted that people should be prepared to be without power for one to two weeks in the area in an interview with Knight News.

Following the storm, more than 10 million Floridians lost power. As of Friday morning, 1.9 million homes and businesses in Florida, including about 278,618 in Central Florida, according to the state’s Division of Emergency Management, were still without power. More than 100 traffic signals were still malfunctioning.

Claire Knox, associate professor of public administration, said that early preparation would be the key to success during and after the storm during an interview with 90.7 WMFE radio, particularly to the response the devastation in Texas left behind by Hurricane Harvey in late August.

“Unlike Katrina, unlike Rita, we’re seeing that there have been a number of policy and planning changes that have happened at the federal, state and local government levels that are allowing us to be more aggressive,” she said.

The School of Public Administration conducts research on emergency and crisis management and prepares future emergency managers with its programs on emergency management and homeland security.

Written by Drexler B. James ’13