Re-entry Program Following Evacuations Proposed

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Re-entry Program Following Evacuations Proposed:

Difficulties following Irma highlighted need for new plan

Confusion and traffic jams reigned as residents and local employees made their way back to Miami Beach following the mandatory evacuation for Hurricane Irma last summer. At the urging of Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and the Commission’s Neighborhood and Community Affairs Committee, a new plan is being proposed for a tiered decal re-entry system for emergency responders, residents, and businesses following an evacuation event.
 
Turns out there was a plan that had been developed by the City’s emergency management staff, but according to City Manager Jimmy Morales, “[T]he plan was not reviewed nor adopted by the departments tasked with carrying out the procedures. When the time came to implement the program following Hurricane Irma, the task proved to be unmanageable and inconsistently enforced, and information was not sufficiently communicated to the public.”
 
In a letter to Commissioners, Morales said following the Neighborhood Committee’s request for a method “to easily identify residents and employees so they could return to their homes and their jobs expeditiously,” a group of key stakeholders has been involved in planning a program that utilizes decals to easily identify vehicles for re-entry. Given the timeliness (mid-hurricane season) and the August Commission break, Morales reported the recommendations via letter now with a presentation to the Neighborhoods Committee scheduled for September.
 
The new procedure would include “tier-identified decals as well as a communications plan.” According to Morales, looking at similar programs in coastal cities of comparable size and populations, it is estimated that “90,000 decals (1,000 for first responders, 1,000 for other emergency responders, hotel and condominium emergency response personnel and 88,000 for residents and businesses)” would cost between $6,500 for regular decals and up to $35,000 for reflective decals, not including administrative costs such as postage or advertising. “Other cities have charged a processing fee and this can be investigated further in the interest of offsetting costs,” he wrote.
 
“[T]he public safety departments involved in the planning have concluded that the issuance of decals to represent the various tiers or levels of allowed re-entry is the best procedure to assist in the enforcement of this plan,” Morales said.
 
Communication will be key, he said. “One of the major complaints from the public and those tasked with restricting entry after the storm was that there was conflicting information which led to some confusion about when to and who could re-enter the City,” Morales wrote. The Department of Emergency Management and Communications Department are now coordinating those plans which include Commissioners and their aides. “Elected officials are often the best and most trusted source of information,” Morales said.  
 
The working group putting together the proposed program includes the Police and Fire Chiefs and members of their staffs along with representatives from the Transportation, Marketing & Communications, Parking, and Finance Departments. Also included, executives from Mount Sinai Medical Center, the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association. Adrian Gonzalez of David’s Café and the Miami Beach CERT leader Jeff Gordon provided the perspective of businesses and residents, according to Morales.
 
 
Photo courtesy Commissioner John Alemán

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