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Our Town by William Kelly: Readiness and resilience are dominant themes at Governor’s Hurricane Conference

The 2024 Governor’s Hurricane Conference brought the latest information on disaster preparedness and response to Palm Beach’s doorstep earlier this month when it was held at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach.

Speakers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Hurricane Center addressed more than 1,600 conference participants during the week of May 12-17.

The conference provided an opportunity for emergency managers, first responders, medical professionals and volunteers to share the latest information about storm readiness, said Mary Blakeney, director of the Palm Beach County Division of Emergency Management.

“Things like this Governor’s Hurricane Conference are so important for emergency managers in the community because it’s an opportunity for us to learn ‘lessons learned’ and best practices from our partners that have experienced recent hurricanes,” she said.

West Palm Beach Assistant Fire Chief Brent Bloomfield said networking among professionals was the most valuable aspect of the conference for him.

“I think the biggest thing we look for when we come to these conferences is the building of relationships,” Bloomfield said.

It was also an opportunity to drive home the message to the public that, with the beginning of hurricane season just days away, the time to be prepared is now.

The Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1 and lasts through November 30. This season is forecast to be one of the most active on record, with most predictions calling for more than 20 named storms.

Look for the Palm Beach Civic Association’s special report on the 2024 Hurricane Season, entitled Ahead of the Storm, on Saturday, June 1. The Civic Association’s communications team conducted in-depth interviews with the experts to gather all the information you need to be ready for this year’s storm season. Ahead of the Storm, co-sponsored by the Palm Beach Police and Fire Foundation and the Civic Association, will be emailed to recipients on our Constant Contact list and posted to our website, palmbeachcivic.org.

At the hurricane conference, a panel of experts talked about the challenges of keeping people, pets, and property safe during and after a storm.

Attendees browsed through an exhibition hall where emergency vehicles, services and equipment were on display. More than 180 vendors were at the exhibit hall, showcasing potentially life-saving equipment and supplies that included portable shelters, lighting and generators, automatic sandbagging machines, satellite phones and emergency food kits, and devices that provide a clean water supply.

There were also workshops and classes where people could learn new skills.

Blakeney said it is important for new residents who may not have been through a hurricane before to understand whether they live in an evacuation zone and whether they have the proper shutters and other protective measures in place.

She said it’s also crucial that residents heed the warning of county emergency managers when they issue an evacuation order instead of trying to follow the various hurricane models and decide for themselves if they are in harm’s way.

Stephen Montoya, Palm Beach Fire-Rescue lieutenant/medic and emergency management coordinator, said he sat in on interesting seminars about improving community resilience. He also heard from experts about the need for stronger infrastructure and better communication systems.

“The conference put a big emphasis on the importance of different agencies working together,” he said.

Speakers also stressed the importance of ensuring that plans are up to date yet flexible enough to manage the unexpected circumstances that can accompany a disaster, Montoya said.

“I’m excited to bring these ideas and lessons back to help make our community safer and more prepared for future hurricanes and other disasters,” he said.

 

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