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County Announces Hurricane Preparedness Event at the EOC


MANATEE — The Manatee County Department of Public Safety has announced two opportunities for residents to receive official information about hurricane preparedness and to have questions answered by county emergency management professionals.

Members of the public are invited to the Public Safety Emergency Operations Center (EOC),  located at 2101 47th Terrace East, for an in-person question and answer session on Friday, July 12, beginning at 10 a.m. 

The Coffee & Questions at the EOC event will include a special guest, ABC7 (WWSB-TV) Chief Meteorologist Bob Harrigan, who will be on hand to help answer residents' questions about hurricanes and extreme weather threats. 

Attendees will get a rare opportunity to step inside the local Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and learn about how the command base is used by emergency officials to organize communications and coordinate response and recovery during and after a disaster emergency (such as a tropical storm or hurricane). 

Residents who attend the event will also have the opportunity to receive important information from Manatee County Emergency Management officials about how to prepare their families, homes, and businesses to weather a storm.

Those who wish to attend the EOC event should sign up in advance at mymanatee.org/coffeechat.

In addition to the upcoming in-person event at the EOC, the Manatee County Department of Public Safety's social media pages advertised this week another way for residents to have their questions about hurricane preparedness answered by emergency management officials.

In a short video, the county's Chief of Emergency Management, Matthew Myers, invites residents to submit their questions about hurricanes and how to prepare via an online submission form. The questions received will be answered in an upcoming video by the Emergency Management team, explained Myers. 

Click here to access the “Frequently Asked Questions FAQ” submission form. Residents who wish to submit their questions in writing to be answered in an upcoming video are required to provide their first and last name, email address, and city of residence.

The social media posts did not provide information about whether there was a deadline for submitting questions through the form. 

The two newly announced opportunities for residents to receive educational information about hurricane preparedness appear to be part of the county’s revised 2024 format for reaching the public about the importance of preparation during this storm season.

Earlier this month, TBT reported that the county’s annual Hurricane Expo would not take place this year. The event had typically been held in the weeks before the official start of hurricane season, which begins on June 1.

While the county did not respond to our requests for comment, a 311 Operator reached via the county resident hotline on June 10 explained that the Hurricane Expo was not going to be held because the county was “doing things differently” this year and “reformatting” its hurricane preparedness public outreach.

TBT attempted to reach county officials for comment regarding its decision to forego the annual expo and to request information about preparedness outreach, presentations, or other event dates it might have planned or that had already been held. Our multiple requests for comment went unanswered.

However, in a June 26 press release about the recently announced EOC event, the county did provide some information about the efforts of Emergency Management staff this hurricane season.

Speaking of the scheduled Coffee and Questions at the EOC, Emergency Management Chief Myers was quoted in the release as saying, “It’s a great opportunity to check your readiness. We’ve been able to assist many residents at our readiness sessions across the county this spring, but we wanted to offer another in-season opportunity to help bring everyone up to speed.”

The press release included that Emergency Management staff had already held dozens of in-person presentations to individual HOAs and Condo Associations, church groups, senior centers, and business organizations in preparation for the 2024 Hurricane Season.

On Friday, TBT sent a follow-up email to county officials seeking more information about the hurricane preparedness presentations that had already been provided by emergency management staff, which communities across the county had been visited, and information about presentations scheduled for future dates and where those would take place. We did not receive a response to our inquiry before our reporting deadline. 

An individual working for a senior medical center in eastern Manatee County told TBT that county emergency management staff partnered with their facility to hold hurricane preparedness presentations ahead of hurricane season, providing roughly ten presentations to senior living communities within the 34203 zip code. 

Unlike those presentations provided by the emergency management team to homeowner and condo associations, held at community centers, or other community-specific locations, the two opportunities advertised this week on social media will open up access to residents residing anywhere in the county who are interested in receiving information about hurricane prep and recovery from local officials. 

Though the new question-and-answer forum was detailed in a press release, and advertisements for the Q&A opportunities were shared on Manatee County Government's and the Department of Public Safety's social media pages, some residents might never see the social media posts announcing these opportunities. 

A change in county policy earlier this year that restricted public comment on official social media pages—including on the accounts of the county's Public Safety and Animal Welfare Departments—likely means that far fewer residents are seeing important announcements and information about upcoming events than in the past. 

Social media platforms such as Facebook, X and Instagram use algorithms to determine which posts or pages will show up in a user’s feed as they scroll. One of the most important metrics used in these algorithms is the measurement of “engagement.”

Through analytics, social media platforms will track how much engagement a post has received from other users. Posts that receive a lot of engagement, especially in the form of comments, are more likely to appear in users’ feeds. 

In the days following TBT’s June 14 report on the lack of publicly available information about the county’s plan for hurricane preparedness outreach, one commissioner took matters into his own hands, sending an email message to some of the constituents he represents. 

Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge utilized his
District 3 Commissioner Newsletter to alert his residents to the importance of hurricane preparedness and where they could find online information and educational resources.

“Given that June 1st to November 30th is hurricane season, now would be an excellent time to focus on safety precautions and preparedness as top priorities,” Van Ostenbridge’s June 19 message read. “If we encounter such an event, you can refer to the links and important information we have provided for you.”

According to public records, as of July 2023, Van Ostenbridge's District 3 Newsletter had a recipient list of approximately 14,000 residents. Manatee County's District 3 covers the areas of west and northwest Bradenton, the cities of Anna Maria Island, Rubonia, Cortez, Snead Island, and Terra Ceia, and portions of Longboat Key and downtown Bradenton. 

According to 2023 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the total population of Manatee County had grown to just over 441,000 residents. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts an above-average hurricane season this year. The official forecast projects 17-25 named storms, 8-13 of which will become hurricanes and 4-7 of which could potentially become major hurricanes.

Image: NOAA
Image: NOAA

Emergency Management officials across Florida have been urging residents to be sure they've prepared for the worst while hoping for the best. Florida’s Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie has likewise stressed the importance of preparedness, telling Floridians that they “need to have a plan.”

Manatee County residents seeking advice on how to best prepare for this hurricane season, or who are interested in learning more about disaster preparedness, can access the 2024 Manatee County Disaster Planning Guide online, here.

Important information can also be found on the county’s Emergency Management webpage, or by visiting the following links:

- Sign up for emergency alerts

- How to build a disaster kit

- Evacuation Level Map

- Locate local emergency shelters

- Special Needs Registry

Additional information on disaster preparedness can be found at www.floridadisaster.org and FEMA's Ready.gov, including: 

- Severe weather tips

- Making a plan

- Important information for seniors

- Information for individuals with special needs

- Pets and animals

- Financial preparedness

Information about current tropical systems, hurricane forecasts, and official storm track projections can be found at www.nhc.noaa.gov.

Additional weather impacts and threat information can be found online through the Tampa Bay Office of the National Weather Service (NWS). 

The official start of the 2024 hurricane season was June 1 and runs through November 30. The peak of the Atlantic hurricane season is September 10, but most activity is generally seen between mid-August and mid-October—though a tropical system could develop and pose a threat to Florida anytime within (or just outside of) the official hurricane season. 

As of Saturday morning, June 29, the NHC/NOAA was monitoring two system areas for potential development and tracking one named system, Tropical Storm Beryl. 

The NHC/NOAA June 29, 8:00 a.m. advisory said Beryl was located east-southeast of Barbados and moving quickly west. A hurricane watch was issued for the Barbados Islands, and additional hurricane and tropical storm watches and/or warnings are anticipated for portions of the Windward and southern Leeward Islands over the weekend. 

Beryl is expected to become the first major hurricane of the 2024 season. 

An additional area of disturbance is being monitored in the Northwestern Caribbean/Southwestern Gulf of Mexico, which was given a 40% chance of development over the next 48 hours as of June 29 at the 8 a.m. advisory. Another disturbance with only a 20% chance of formation in the next 48 hours was located in the Eastern Tropical Atlantic. 

Watch the video below to hear Manatee County Emergency Management's Joel Richmond explain how to identify your emergency evacuation level. 

To sign up to attend Manatee County’s Emergency Management Coffee & Questions at the EOC on July 12,
click here.


3 comments on this item

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  • kmskepton

    Cool. Sounds interesting to visit the EOC. Just signed up. Thanks for the info.

    Sunday, June 30 Report this

  • andreart

    Oops, I am not on Van Ostenbridfes newsletter list. There are more than 14,000 residents in his District. Wonder what happened??

    Wednesday, July 3 Report this

  • sandy

    KCO is running for at-large now not just District 3. Where's my newsletter?

    Wednesday, July 3 Report this