“Multiple disasters”: Emergency officials juggle COVID-19, Surfside collapse and Elsa

Crews in Florida are preparing for emergencies, responding to them and working through them right now.

During an interview in late May, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie and his team had been on COVID-19 response for well over a year.

“One of the things I think the Florida Division (of) Emergency Management does better than anybody else in the country is, we’re used to handling multiple disasters at one time,” Guthrie said.

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But little did he know that come early July, the department would be handling the coronavirus response, a catastrophic condo collapse and a tropical storm. That means teams are spread out and working non-stop.

“They stand ready to serve multiple disasters,” Guthrie said.

Emergency Management has a written co-response plan that it turns to when they are handling more than one disaster at a time. That plan is well underway.

READ: Altamonte offering free sandbags at Eastmonte Park ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa

Last week, all of Florida’s Urban Search and Rescue Teams were sent to Surfside, working 12 hours shifts to search for survivors. Guthrie made the decision to relieve the Florida teams and call in crews from other states so Florida’s first responders are back home so they can stand ready ito respond to any impacts from Tropical Storm Elsa.

Guthrie has held calls with Emergency Management directors in a handful of counties to discuss needs and storm preparations, doing all of that while he was on the ground in Surfside.

READ: Surfside condo collapse: Death toll rises to 27; 118 unaccounted for

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.