By Mary Dougherty
It is less than a month since Hurricane Ian hit Florida. The magnitude of the devastation is unfathomable. Our hearts go out to those in the hardest-hit areas.
I know that members of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange have been hard at work making repairs to schools and businesses to get them back online as quickly as possible. We are seeing the best in our community after such a terrible disaster. As you drive down the I-75 you see work crews from many different states coming to help repair the damage. As a country, we can be proud of how we come together for each other after disasters.
During times like this, we even see political differences put aside. The federal and state government have been working together, counties have reached across lines to send law enforcement and emergency services to assist other agencies that have been stretched to the max, and once again we can be proud of Sarasota Memorial Hospital for providing services for other areas where hospitals were damaged.
While many of us in the region were fortunate to have minimal damage, our neighbors to the south and east need our continued help. At GCBX, many of our members are reaching out to help their employees that were impacted by the storm and mobilizing crews to begin recovery efforts.
Soon it will be time to look at the lessons learned from Ian. The biggest takeaway is that these storms are unpredictable. The governor was warning the entire west coast of Florida in the days before the storm and that warning was appropriate. Pinpoint accuracy for this type of storm just doesn’t seem possible, so we cannot depend on it. We all must be prepared. I thought I was prepared, but in retrospect I will do better next time.
We all need to check our insurance policies and make sure we have adequate insurance coverage. The storm surge and river flooding associated with Ian have shown us that many parts of Florida where homeowners did not think they needed flood insurance were not spared the fury and devastation caused by the flooding.
Yet, when you look at many areas affected by the devastation, you see some structures that seem to have survived the worst of the fury. We will not know for quite some time, but I wonder if this means that newer building codes implemented after past disasters did, in fact, live up to their promises. This certainly is not how we wanted to evaluate them, but nature has put them to the test.
Additionally, I recently saw a segment on "60 Minutes" about Babcock Ranch, a community 12 miles away from Fort Myers (according to the segment). The community had minimal damage and they featured residents resuming their normal lives in a noticeably brief period of time. It was amazing to see, and you couldn’t help but feel good for the residents of Babcock Ranch and to wonder what lessons can be learned from what they are doing down there.
I am sure all that will happen in the appropriate time, but for now we need to help our neighbors. We also need to be grateful for the employees in city and county governments who are still mobilized in the EOC. They work immeasurable hours during these disasters, taking time away from their own families during a time when being with your family is one of your greatest gifts. We appreciate them and the work they do for all of us.
Mary Dougherty is executive director of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.