Columbia County Falls Short During Tropical Storm Beryl: Public Safety Division & Emergency Management leave public in the dark
Posted June 1, 2012 07:45 am
COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Columbia County fell short and got lucky during tropical storm Beryl's warm-up to hurricane season. Milder than expected, the storm demonstrated that the County had no protocols in place to keep the public informed about changing events; emergency shelters; emergency phone numbers; fallen trees; flooded roads and the things that government is supposed to do during the activation of the Emergency Management Center.
This is the composition of the County's new Public Safety Division.
The Columbia County website and the Emergency Management website were silent regarding weather updates, emergency shelters and everything else regarding tropical storm Beryl.
The newly formed Division of Public Safety managed by former Lake City, city manager and now a senior staff assistant with the County, David Kraus, had no protocols in place to keep the public informed about storm conditions.
The new Emergency Management Director, Shayne Morgan, kept multiple lists of e-mail addresses and contacts and sent out storm updates only to a chosen few.
The County's Public Information Officer (PIO), TDC Director Harvey Campbell, was in between computers and his media contact lists were not up-to-date or consolidated.
TDC director Campbell only acts as the County's PIO when the Emergency Management Center is activated or is being ramped up to activation.
Director Campbell told the Observer, "I will be inclusive of anyone who wants to be included," when asked who would be on his updated contact list.
Former Emergency Management Director, Ronnie McCardle, refused to put media outlets on his contact list and would only send storm updates to his chosen few.
The new Emergency Management Director, Shayne Morgan, was Mr. McCardle's assistant.
In an e-mail received from Director Morgan, the Observer was advised that as requested, it was put on all emergency management distribution lists.
When Director Morgan took over Emergency Management there were no communication protocols in place and it appears that there were no updated e-mail contact lists.
David Kraus, the County Public Safety Division Chief, did not respond to phone calls, e-mails or text messages.
Columbia County got a lucky break with tropical storm Beryl. Had this been a real disaster, Columbia County's residents could have been in real trouble.
The County needs to address the following issues:
Who is the point man for communications when it comes to emergency management activation? Is it the the PIO, the emergency management director, or the public safety division chief?
When is the County going to develop written communication protocols for emergency management?
When does emergency management need to speak with one voice?
The flow chart shows the "People" on the top of the list. It is time they received more than lip service.