The communications and cooperation between Florida and federal and local officials in Hurricane Dorian preparations may have been the best ever, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said Thursday.
“What I was hearing [from response units under her command] as we were walking in here was that there was complete coordination between FEMA and our state response teams,” Fried said in Orlando. “That is critical when you are having a national disaster hitting as a Category 5 hurricane.”
Fried, a Democrat, gave some credit to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and his Democratic Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz for bringing state and federal storm-prep leaders together in one command center and to make sure local officials were tied in closely as well, to make sure efforts were fully informed, coordinated and cost-effective for Hurricane Dorian.
“It really was remarkable to see all the coordination between the locals and the state, which I was told had not happened previously,” Fried said. “That was also coming out of leadership , coming out of the Governor’s office, as well as Jared Moskowitz, the emergency management director, as well as all of the teams that were inside the Tallahassee [emergency operations center.] Everybody was working together and there was communication, I was told, that had not happened in years previously.”
Fried, in her first year in the statewide office that oversees disaster response teams from various agricultural services, Florida Forest Service, Consumer Services, and animal control and food, water and ice supplies, met with the media in Orlando Thursday at the Orange County Convention Center, where her department’s incident response teams and others were staged.
“I think it’s a model moving forward for us,” said Rick Dolan, incident commander for the Florida Red Incident Response Team of the Florida Forest Service. “You’re not duplicating efforts, so that’s the thing. If you have everyone in the same room talking, you don’t duplicate efforts. It’s cost-efficient.
“I think we did it this way because of lessons learned,” Dolan continued. “Under Michael, we had a similar model but the teams weren’t together. They were 40 miles apart. And so, after action reviews, they decided we should put the teams together. We did it. It worked out very well.”
Fried said her response units remain on the ready, seeing if they need to be deployed to other southeastern states now being threatened by Hurricane Dorian.
She also said her Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services stands ready to assist the Bahamas once that battered nation is available to start receiving aid. That assistance largely would come in the form of organization of aid supply operations, she said.
“People are saying ‘why should we care? They’re not in the United States.’ But the reality is we as Americans do have a moral, ethical obligation to protect and to be there for countries like The Bahamas,” she said. “We are ready and prepared to do whatever necessary here in the state of Florida to help our neighbors in the south and in the Bahamas.”