ORLANDO, Fla. — The City of Orlando is launching a new initiative to help organize and speed up volunteer responses following disasters.
- Orlando to create volunteer reception centers during storms
- Part of storm season preparations, relief efforts
- COMPLETE COVERAGE: 2019 Storm Season Guide | Latest Tropical Maps
The city is training employees to help run what will be temporary volunteer reception centers.
“We really wanted a system and a strategy for engaging those volunteers and assigning them in roles where they are needed, rather than just having them show up,” said Julie Tindall, Orlando’s community outreach manager.
The new program will funnel walk-in volunteers into a process where, within an hour, they will go through background checks and be assigned to specific work sites with specific volunteer work functions.
This effort is predicted to create more organization and to speed up responses to in-need areas.
Tindall said there is no need to pre-register as a disaster response volunteer, but rather calls for help will go out when needed.
They’ll also continue to rely on a vast network of non-profit and other organizations for help and resources.
Training for the new program comes at the nine-month mark for Hurricane Michael, which devastated the Florida Panhandle last year.
The storm cost insurers more than $6.6 billion, in addition to costs spend by state and local governments to help the area rebuild — an effort that continues nearly a year later.
“Nine months ago today, Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Panhandle, showing Floridians first-hand the devastation these storms can bring to our communities,” Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said. “When disaster strikes, I am grateful to have our dedicated Urban Search and Rescue Teams ready to respond immediately to keep us safe in the aftermath of devastation.”
Patronis was in Orlando Wednesday to see how Central Florida’s “Task Force Four” is preparing for the new storm season.
Task Force Four is a regional joint search and rescue group with members coming from fire rescue departments from across Central Florida. They are often called out not just locally, but elsewhere as well, and credited for helping thousands of lives in the aftermath of storms like Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi, Hurricane Harvey in Beaumont Texas, and Hurricane Michael in the Panhandle.
“We don’t know when disaster is going to strike, but we do know who will answer the call,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.
The timing of these preparedness efforts also come as state and regional leaders try to encourage Floridians to be prepared well before a storm may hit.
“We are just weeks away from the peak of Hurricane Season in August, and experts are predicting possible tropical activity in the Gulf of Mexico this week,” Patronis said. “I’m encouraging all Floridians to act now and be prepared if a major storm hits the Sunshine State.”
In addition to PrepareFL.com, Spectrum News 13 has a 2019 Storm Season Guide online to provide resources on what to pack in a Hurricane Survival Kit, along with 13 Hurricane Myths, What to do Before, During and After the storm, plus live storm tracking resources.