Communication professionals from Central Florida gathered at Orange County’s Emergency Operations Center on June 8 to discuss disaster preparedness. Hurricane season began on June 1 and ends Nov. 30.
The Central Florida Communications Meeting, attended by nearly 80 communicators and public information officers from area hospitals, Central Florida municipalities, utilities, universities and colleges, regional transportation and mobility agencies, theme parks and travel and leisure organizations is hosted annually by Orange County’s Communications Division as part of the County’s emergency preparedness planning at the onset of hurricane season in June.
“Sharing best practices on storm preparedness and maintaining open lines of communications with all of our Central Florida partners is vitally important for our 1.2 million citizens and 66 million global visitors,” said Communications Division Manager Ann Marie Varga. “Connecting with our partners before an emergency activation truly encourages mutual cooperation and is another way we prepare for our roles as key communicators at our Emergency Operations Center.”
Keith Kotch, Communications and Warning Coordinator with Orange County’s Office of Emergency Management, led the communicators’ roundtable discussion and provided the 2016 hurricane forecast. The forecast for the 2016 season predicts four to eight hurricanes and 10 to 16 named storms.
“We’ve had a busy start to 2016, already having three named storms, including Tropical Storm Colin,” said Kotch. “It is difficult to predict when the next major storm will hit, which is why it’s important that communicators are prepared and have a plan in place.”
Kotch stressed the importance of practicing emergency exercises and drills regularly to ensure operations run smoothly when an emergency does occur.
“During emergencies, our goal is to get things back to normal as soon as possible. This way, we can re-open our schools and businesses and allow our community to continue to thrive,” said Kotch.
Kelly Deutsch, Interim Manager of Orange County Mosquito Control provided an update on the Zika virus and talked about how communicators can work to minimize Zika’s affect in Central Florida.
“We really just want to get the message out,” Deutsch said. “These are not mosquitoes that like natural bodies of water. Sharing our information via the traditional news outlets and social media and reminding citizens to drain and cover containers of water is key.”
For more information about Orange County’s efforts and prevention of mosquito-borne illnesses visit Mosquito Safety. Disaster information during an emergency can be accessed by downloading Orange County’s free smartphone applications. OCFL Alert provides open shelter locations, water and ice distribution centers, evacuation routes, public service announcements and much more. The OCFL News app provides breaking news and the OCFL 311 app allows users to photograph, pinpoint and report any problem encountered before, during or after the storm directly to Orange County’s 311 Service Center. OCFL 311 also maps relevant community information that may impact neighborhoods.
Citizens can also register for the OC Alert system, which sends emergency alerts, notifications and life-saving instructions via text message to cell phones and email accounts.
For more information, visit Orange County’s hurricane and emergency information webpage.