FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida – The Broward County Emergency Management Division distribution center is stocked with many items needed for both COVID-19 relief and storm response.
But now that we enter a second hurricane season amid COVID-19, local officials still face challenges.
Terry Hodges says Broward’s emergency management department is stocked with supplies and personal protective equipment, including face shields, hand sanitizer and infrared thermometers for screening in shelters.
However, shelter planning remains tricky, even as the pandemic draws to a close.
“One of the things we’ve done is we’ve changed the capacity of shelters to allow social distancing,” Hodges said. “So basically what has happened is that our normal capacity has been reduced by two-thirds. “
Frank Rollason, the chief of emergency management for Miami-Dade, said they would double the number of shelters – and, like at Broward, isolate those with symptoms of COVID or COVID.
“There will be people who will come and say that they have COVID or that they have symptoms of COVID, with their families, and we will isolate them in different classrooms,” he said.
Shannon Weiner, director of the Monroe County EOC, said they would continue to use four high schools as shelters.
“We will continue with the isolation areas for those who may get sick during their stay at the shelter,” she said. “And we will recommend masks for those who are not vaccinated. But there won’t be any, they won’t be mandatory.
The challenge is also to convince people that it is safe to come to a shelter.
“I think it would be a false promise on our part to tell them that they will be safe from COVID, because I think none of us are safe from COVID,” said Rollason . “We are taking the precautions recommended by the CDC and you kind of have to weigh what is the best option for you and your family to make a decision.”
Like many of us, emergency managers have been working from home during the pandemic, but they say it won’t affect their abilities during a storm.
This is not the only change from the pandemic.
County Monroe had to revamp their back-to-school decals.
“We discovered that during the re-entry under COVID, there was a counterfeit residential re-entry sticker underway from the Key Largo area,” Weiner said.
Each resident must obtain a new decal through their tax collector’s office. The stickers have new colors, shapes and are bar coded for scanning at a re-entry checkpoint.
No matter what the hurricane season ends up bringing, emergency services say they are ready.
“If your plans call for you to take action and move to a safe place and that safe place is our shelter, we’ll be there,” Hodges said. “We will be ready.”
The main message they want to get across is to be prepared with your own supplies, like water and non-perishable foods.
CLICK HERE to view and download our 2021 Hurricane Survival Guide.
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