Editorials

Dorian hasn’t shown up, but DeSantis stepped up as a capable leader in the eye of the storm | Editorial

Hurricane Dorian is that annoying commuter driving too slowly with the turn signal blinking, blinking blinking.

As of late Monday, this storm had yet to make the right.

Dorian’s pace is lackadaisical, but it’s packing destructive force. Reaching Category 5 strength on Sunday, the hurricane lingered over the Bahamas through Monday devastating Abaco and Grand Bahama Island. At least five people have died. The devastation left on those beautiful islands is stunning. Relief efforts are under way, and South Floridians, especially those spared the storm’s ferocity when, and if, it makes landfall in Florida, should help generously.

Despite Dorian’s expected north-by-northwest trajectory, Miami-Dade still might not be totally out of the woods by Tuesday, though rain and gusty winds stand to be as harsh as it gets.

One thing is certain, however: Despite often long periods of calm in between hurricanes, South Floridians are hardy, but not complacent. Residents under threat quickly sprang into prep mode: waiting on gas lines, stocking up on water and batteries, installing those shutters and, a little farther north, obeying mandatory evacuation orders.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of some of the entities that should be keeping residents safe.

Almost 60 percent of nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the state still do not have backup generators or other power sources for air conditioning in the event of a prolonged power outage. They are in violation of a state mandate imposed after a dozen people died in a stiflingly hot Hollywood nursing home that, in 2017, lost power as Hurricane Irma blew through.

In South Florida, according to the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau, only 59 of 146 nursing homes from Palm Beach County to Monroe County have implemented their generator plans.

The facilities were given an accelerated timeline to be in compliance. The state’s Agency For Health Care Administration has granted a year’s extension to those that have not installed generators or implemented a plan.

With hurricane season 2019 not yet over, AHCA should ensure that, at the very least, noncompliant facilities have a solid Plan B to save lives in their care.

On the flip side, Gov. Ron DeSantis should be applauded for his leadership during this, his first hurricane emergency as governor. For eight long, silent years, former Gov. Rick Scott shut the media out of his twice-a-day briefings with emergency managers. As hurricanes bore down on the state, journalists — and, therefore, Floridians — had to wait longer to get crucial, even lifesaving, information.

Gov. Ron DeSantis wisely put an end to that nonsense.

He resumed including the media in his briefings with emergency managers across the state, as Govs. Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist had. Under media-wary Scott, reporters couldn’t access audio from the briefings and couldn’t ask emergency managers questions. When the same no-audio practice was in place for the first day of Dorian operations at the Emergency Operations Center, Herald reporter Mary Ellen Klas asked the governor afterward why. DeSantis, unaware of Scott’s policy, re-instated media access immediately.

More important, agency heads and emergency managers are available to reporters, able to share valuable information.

Bravo. By broadening access to crucial hurricane updates, he is helping the media — and, therefore, Floridians — know sooner what to expect at this wet, soggy and stressful time.

This editorial was updated to reflect the latest death toll in the Bahamas.

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