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Florida's hurricane response system was 'ill-prepared' for disaster, audit warned

Mary Ellen Klas, Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times on

Published in Weather News

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Long before Florida entered the deadliest hurricane season in a decade, auditors at the state's Division of Emergency Management warned what the state was ill-prepared for a major disaster.

An annual audit completed in December 2016 by the agency's inspector general detailed a lengthy list of deficiencies needed to prepare and respond to a hurricane. Among them:

–– Food and water supplies at the distribution center in Orlando were inadequate.

–– Contracts with companies that would supply cots to shelters had expired.

–– The agreements many trucking companies had signed with the state's emergency management agency to distribute supplies had lapsed.

–– The agency was using "a spreadsheet created in the 1980s to help predict the amount of supplies and equipment that may be needed after a storm makes landfall," as the state's giant storage facility remained half empty.

Worse, auditors said, the state's emergency managers didn't know what they didn't know.

"Action is needed to determine the requirements of the state for supplies and equipment in the event of a disaster in order to ensure that adequate types and quantities of disaster supplies and equipment are available," inspectors said.

The report concluded: "The division's ability to respond to disasters may be impaired."

The audit findings were delivered to Bryan Koon, at the time secretary of the Division of Emergency Management, his chief of staff and their deputies. They agreed with the criticisms and promised to improve.

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