Friday, June 03, 2005

County Changes Way It Responds To Hurricanes

Source: WESH-TV

Just days into hurricane season, leaders in many Central Florida cities and counties are doing all they can to make sure they're prepared.

Orlando and Orange County emergency management officials met Thursday to see how they are going to better prepare for this hurricane season.

Hurricane season 2004 was an eye opener for all of Central Florida. The biggest lesson learned -- Orlando can be hit, despite being 60 miles from the coast.

"We don't know if we're going to get hit again by a hurricane but we do know this: We need to be prepared and we need to be prepared today," said emergency manager Manny Soto.

The city will do several things differently this hurricane season, including the way it schedules press briefings.

"Between the different entities, we want to better coordinate the opportunities to get the information out," said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

The city has also changed the procedure for removing trees on downed power wires.

"We have learned how to better coordinate the police department, fire department, our public works and parks employees in teams going out together," Dyer said.

Also new this year is the traffic center, which is ideal for the hurricanes because Orlando tends to be a major evacuation location

"By monitoring Interstate 4 and our primary roadways, we're able to determine how well an evacuation is taking place," said Alan Oyler, of the Orlando Public Workers Department.

In the new traffic center, officials can look at a bank of TV monitors to see how full the roadways are, where debris is piling up and a check of weather conditions. The traffic operations center is located just one door away, five easy steps, from the 911 dispatch center. That way, if a problem arises, it's relayed immediately to fire, police and the Orlando Utilities Commission.

Effective immediately, emergency management are recommending every family have a disaster kit and plan in place. The city is also planning to launch an AM radio station to provide 24-hour updates.

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