NICEVILLE — Local officials gathered at the Okaloosa County Emergency Operations Center on Tuesday to tighten up hurricane evacuation plans ahead of the 2018 season, which begins on June 1.
According to a press release from the county, Okaloosa Public Safety professionals hosted a meeting with representatives from the State Emergency Response Team, Walton County, Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, members of the military, Fort Walton Beach Police, and other officials to prepare for possible evacuation scenarios in the event of a major hurricane.
State meteorologists explained the meanings of various maps, storm projections and the math behind predicting storm surges.
Storm surge is the single largest killer in a hurricane situation, the press release said. According to the National Hurricane Center, storm surge kills almost half the victims in a hurricane.
Public Safety Director Alvin Henderson says it’s of great importance to prepare before the season starts.
“We’ve changed in Okaloosa County. The growth we have experienced. We’ve seen record numbers of tourism coming into our area. That affects how we do our job in an emergency situation,” Henderson said.
After a potential storm passes, re-establishing locations to distribute food and re-opening pharmacies and businesses will be at the top of the list for public safety.
Henderson explained they learned lessons from last year's storms, including how to coordinate with local chambers of commerce and how to work with hotels, so they could properly house evacuees and compensate their lodgers.
“We always plan for the worst,” Henderson said, “but we always want to hope for the best, too. Look out for critical needs and make sure you and your family are covered.”