Report: Marco Island can improve hurricane preparedness in multiple ways

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle
Damage from Hurricane Irma can be seen on Marco Island, Fla. Sunday, September 10, 2017.

With hurricane season now in full effect, a preliminary report prepared by the Ad Hoc Hurricane Review Committee has found multiple areas in which Marco Island can improve.

Chairperson Jim von Rinteln presented the report at Marco Island City Council’s June 4 meeting and urged leaders in the city to look at emergency preparedness as a year-long process.

“There was a synergy, in our examination, that was missing or misfiring previous to with regards to the preparedness aspect of this,” von Rinteln said.  

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During the committee’s five meetings thus far, it reviewed the city’s response to Hurricane Irma to find out what lessons were learned and what measures needed change or improvement.

Starting with leadership, the committee found that the city needs to have a permanent city manager in place to lead and help coordinate disaster management.

“There needs to be a city manager who manages and trains with his staff and the council towards an atmosphere of disaster and emergency preparedness and thoughtfulness in all facets of day-to-day activities,” the report stated.

Without the proper level of leadership in place, the report noted that coordination efforts were not up to par with where they should have been weeks and months prior to hurricane season.

The report hit out at the city’s planning efforts in nothing that staff kept up with the planning requirements in a “haphazard manner.”

In addition to there being no standard approach, there were no records of what had been done and only some departments had conducted an annual review of plans.

The committee found that pieces of training required by the comprehensive emergency management plan were also unable to be tracked.

In addition to needing better planning, interviews conducted by the committee found that the city needed to put more resources into emergency planning.

Prior to Hurricane Wilma, von Rinteln told that Council that there was more robust infrastructure in place that did not continue when Hurricane Irma hit.

This included the need to invest in physical equipment, such as items like a dump truck and front loader, but also in full-time positions like a communications manager and emergency management coordinator.

As part of the upcoming budget discussion, von Rinteln told the Council to include emergency preparedness.

According to the report, outreach and public information were singled out in almost every interview.

The report also stated that no hurricane preparedness seminars were held despite being required by the city’s comprehensive plan. 

Speaking to the need for better communication, the city’s website and TV channel had outdated information on it and a flood information letter was distributed after the storm, not months prior.

The committee will continue to meet on first and third Monday’s every month as it reviews the response, recovery and mitigation efforts related to Hurricane Irma. A final report is expected to be complete by early December.

“The City Government should promote an operational environment and philosophy that incorporates and considers hurricane and disaster preparedness for Marco Island in all aspects of its day-to-day functions throughout the year – currently it is very superficial,” the report stated.

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