SARASOTA COUNTY – Sarasota County, in partnership with the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation and Gulf Coast Community Foundation, have engaged Craig Fugate, the former administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to help facilitate an after-action review of the community’s response to Hurricane Irma.
The holistic and independent review will take a structured approach to identifying strengths and areas for improvement. It will also include peer reviews by three emergency management professionals from around the state and include the input of stakeholders from the local municipalities, Sarasota County Schools, area hospitals, nonprofits and the business community.
“We recognize the importance of reviewing all of our responses to a disaster, especially a storm of Irma’s magnitude,” said Sarasota County Administrator Tom Harmer. “Our community was largely spared the worst of this historic storm’s effects, but having respected professionals in the field of emergency management help review the county’s operations will ensure that our next response to a disaster incorporates lessons learned and leverages best practices. We are excited about our partnership with the foundations and are fortunate to be able to bring the highest level of emergency management expertise to the table to help us evaluate our actions and improve upon our future responses.”
Fugate served as President Barack Obama’s FEMA administrator from 2009-17 and as Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s emergency management director from 2001-09. He oversaw the federal government’s response to major events such as the Joplin and Moore tornadoes, Hurricanes Sandy and Matthew and the 2016 Louisiana flooding and served Florida during the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons (Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne, Dennis, Katrina and Wilma). Last year, Fugate received the National Emergency Management Association’s Lacy E. Suiter Award for lifetime achievements and contributions in the field of emergency management.
The foundations will help ensure the participation of community partners and nonprofits in the review and have agreed to fund Fugate’s work.
Beginning next month, Fugate will facilitate meetings with stakeholders to review the timeline of events and actions related to Hurricane Irma. Key findings, recommendations and next steps will be reviewed and developed by Fugate and three peer reviewers: Alan Harris, emergency management director for Seminole County; Manny Soto, emergency management director for the City of Orlando; and Jonathan Lord, deputy director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management. The after-action review will culminate in a final report, expected to be completed in early 2018.
In addition to the foundations funding support for Fugate, the county will utilize state emergency management grant funding to support the preparation of the draft report. The peer reviewers have agreed to work at no cost, with the county covering only their travel expenses for their attendance at meetings in Sarasota County.
“This is an opportunity to bring all of our partners together and gather input from some of the most well-respected emergency management experts in the nation,” said Sarasota County Emergency Services Director Rich Collins. “Their feedback will be invaluable in helping our community be even better prepared in the event that disaster strikes.”
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