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District hosts Emergency Operations meeting

March 14, 2018
By MELISSA BILL ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Lehigh Acres Services Municipal District held its second in a series of Emergency Operations Meeting recently.

The luncheon/meeting was geared towards finding ways the Lehigh Acres community can learn, grow and prepare, as a cooperative community, in case of another natural disaster.

Lehigh Acres Municipal District's Commissioner Michael Welch organized representatives from Lee County Government, local government agencies, civic and religious groups for the March 1 session.

"The one thing that came out of the meeting is that the eastern side of the county is pushing ahead of the rest of the county in preparedness. We are all taking this very seriously," said Welch

Welch is filling a newly created role on the agency's Board of Commissioners - the Emergency Operations director and coordinator. The position was established to ensure a member of the board keeps their finger on the pulse of the community to formulate plans and keep communications open in case of a community incident or natural disaster.

"We have found that with as much preplanning as possible, we will be able to service the residents before, during and after an emergency," explained Welch.

Lee County had strong representation with Cecil Pendergrass, chairman of the Lee County Board of Commissioners; Roger Desjarlais, Lee County manager; Lee Mayfield, Emergency Management's acting director as well as Assistant County Managers Dave Harner and Christine Barry in attendance.

"During our discussions, we have discovered that we have enough community leaders to develop clusters in each area of need, such as grouping things together like social services and churches. Through our planning, we can have everything as preplanned as possible," Welch said.

Lehigh Acres organizations were represented in strong numbers with Lee County Mosquito Control District, Lehigh Acres Fire and Rescue Department, Lehigh Regional Medical Center, East Bravo District of the Lee County Sheriff's Office; Lehigh Community Services, Lehigh Acres Senior Center, FGUA, and numerous other organizations.

The various agencies and utility providers also discussed ways to stay connected with community during emergencies.

"Most likely our power will be gone, so we have things in place to keep the agencies connected and get word out to the citizens on things such as where to find shelter, food, water, and if the water running into their home is currently safe to use," Welch said.

Another topic on the meeting agenda was how to preplan for those more susceptible such as the elderly and poor.

"Many of them don't have a way to get out of the area or get to shelters in case of a disaster," Welch said. "We spent a lot of time talking about what the people over in the Lehigh Acres Community Center can do to help people during the storm."

The center will be a valuable source when it comes to helping to run the shelters, he added.

"The county has agreed to train the staff at the center in preparation for emergencies," said Welch.

Other topics included working with a local communications provider who would set up a way for LA-MSID and other agencies to keep lines of communications open.

Welch is also working on an arrangement with a food distributer through FEMA's network who would help get food and water to Lehigh in case of an emergency.

"We are even working to pre-plan things like the points of distribution," said Welch.

The individual clusters of agencies and groups will continue meeting in the coming months to formulate proactive solutions to emergency planning for the Lehigh Acres community.



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