We need to bounce back better from hurricanes

Miami Herald Editorial Board

If we are truly a resilient county, why do we get so rattled by hurricane season? We get brushed by a storm and we lose our power, phones and cable. Darkness falls for days.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava is smartly picking up the baton to try to lessen the impacts we feel from storms. We commend the commissioner for her insightful work.

For starters, at her insistence, the Miami-Dade Commission on Tuesday passed legislation aimed at bringing backup power, including solar-powered solutions, to the county’s traffic signals, and to develop a free, emergency management mobile app. We don’t have those already?

These items are among a list of recommendations Levine Cava outlined in her recent after-action report following Hurricane Irma, which knocked us for a loop.

“We need to take advantage of the technology and tools available to better serve our residents during emergencies,” said Commissioner Levine Cava. A simple concept that was challenged during Irma.

Though we were spared the worst of the storm, the disruption caused “highlights the need to redouble our collective efforts to create a more resilient county,” Levine Cava writes in her 8-page report.

“Resilience is all about preparation, response, and recovery from outside shocks and stresses.”

She’s on the money. We’re not taking the shocks well.

Here are some of her recommendations from the commissioner’s report:

▪  We must get gasoline to Florida faster before and after a storm.

▪ FPL should aggressively pursue underground powerlines. (Costs too much money)

▪  FPL should give people more information about who gets restored first and why.

▪ Before any storm, FPL should coordinate with residents and local governments on who is responsible for trees encroaching on FPL lines.

▪  Cell phone service providers should be better integrated into the county’s disaster planning and communications systems.

▪ Cell phone and cable carriers should install emergency generators at cell phone towers to provide service following a storm. Hallelujah!

▪  Miami-Dade should make its decisions about shelter openings more transparent, and inform residents in a timely manner about which shelters will be opened.

▪  Miami-Dade County should work to make all of its hurricane shelters pet-friendly.

▪ The county should create a smartphone “app” which displays real-time emergency management information, including the list of open evacuation centers and those which are pet-friendly.

▪  3-1-1 should provide expanded hours prior to a storm.

▪ The county should expeditiously activate emergency food distribution sites within impacted areas.

Access to food after a storm event can be a life or death situation for many families.

▪ Prior to a storm, the county should do a better job communicating to residents about how storm debris will be removed and priorities.

▪  And the county should better communicate how the public could assist in propping up those trees in swales after the storm. After a storm, many residents are willing roll up their sleeves and work to get back to normal.

All good ideas.

So how many can we make a reality before the next hurricane season rolls around?