When Hurricane Irma threatened Hillsborough County, Fla., in 2017, emergency management staff into overdrive to prepare for the eventual Category 5 storm.
Luckily for Hillsborough, the brunt of the storm missed the county. But the feeling was that had it hit, the preparation would have been considered inadequate. “Everybody worked really hard during Irma, but when we got to the big day, they were all burned out,” County Administrator Mike Merrill told the Tampa Bay Times. “We didn’t have that strong base of planning and programs that could play out.”
An independent audit after the fact showed that, among other things, the county had not hardened its four field operations centers where disaster assessment teams strategize about some of the logistical aspects of response and recovery like damage assessment and situational awareness. It was decided a complete overhaul of the Emergency Management Division would be necessary.