Florida Division of Emergency Management touts 2021 efforts on COVID-19, other disasters

The Division’s portfolio of work goes beyond servicing Florida's needs.

Perhaps no state agency worked harder in 2021 than the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis and FDEM Director Kevin Guthrie highlighted the Division’s accomplishments and response amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would like to thank my staff at the Division for their continued dedication to ensuring the State of Florida can answer the call when disasters strike,” Guthrie said in a statement. 

Among other accomplishments, the Division led Florida’s charge to distribute COVID-19 vaccines throughout the state. With a “Seniors First” policy implemented by DeSantis, FDEM offered vaccinations first to more than 4,000 long-term care facilities and more than 3,000 assisted living facilities.

In all, the Division vaccinated more than 10.1 million Floridians before passing the mission onto local partners, marking the end of the Division’s 445-day Level 1 response to COVID-19.

FDEM also highlighted its June response to the collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside. The division, they note, arrived on the scene with hours of the collapse.

“In my six months as Director, we have not only continued to prepare our state for natural and man-made disasters, but also responded to unprecedented events such as the Surfside Building Collapse,” Guthrie said.

The Surfside tragedy demanded an all-hands-on-deck response, including the use of mental health counselors, search and rescue teams, and more. 

The Division distributed 450 pairs of boots, 27,000 pairs of socks and 360 pairs of heavy-duty demolition gloves throughout the recovery effort to first responders. 

They also coordinated with federal entities to manage additional personnel and resources, arranged housing for impacted victims and secured more than $20 million from FEMA within a week of the disaster. 

“Under Governor DeSantis’ steady leadership, the Division has continued to foster a more resilient Florida by helping our communities continue to recover from and mitigate against future disasters,” Guthrie added.

FDEM also found themselves tending to the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season. 

After Tropical Storm Elsa made landfall July 7 in Taylor County, the Division coordinated the deployment of 150 trucks containing food and water, 24 generators and 24 water pumps to counties. They also provided weather updates to first responders working the Surfside recovery mission. 

Additionally, FDEM worked with local governments to provide federal assistance in the wake of Tropical Storm Fred in August. 

The Division’s portfolio of work, however, goes beyond the state. FDEM also helped others in their time of need. 

In 2021, the Division sent search and rescue teams — among other resources — to Mississippi and Louisiana after Hurricane Ida. 

Most recently, they mobilized a nine-person team to the Midwest and Tennessee Valley after a tornado outbreak devastated the region. 

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


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