Hurricane expo advocates planning for all emergencies

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Hurricane season is less than a month away and Hernando County’s emergency managers believe there is no substitute for preparedness.

On Saturday, the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office’s Emergency Management Department pulled together its annual expo but with a few changes.

“We renamed it the All Hazards Preparedness Expo,” said Cecelia Patella, the Director of the Emergency Management Department, “because we wanted to incorporate all kinds of different disaster scenarios.”

While hurricane readiness is a big topic as the season approaches, being prepared for any hazard is important, Cecelia said. The expo was scheduled earlier this year and focused on a wider scope of safety preparedness topics.

Another change this year was the venue. While previously held at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, the 2014 Expo took place at Nature Coast Technical High School. The change in location was mainly due to safety, said Patella. Parking had been an issue in the past and the risk to visitors crossing Commercial Way had become a safety concern.

Vendors with links to emergency preparedness, from county officials with the Division of Transportation to other businesses directly associated with important preparedness topics, lined the back wall of the gymnasium. Representatives were available to give information about how residents can be proactive in readying their homes, properties and families for potential disasters.

Other topics touched on the aftermath of an extreme storm, such as site recovery efforts for sinkhole activity or information about how to apply for recovery assistance.

“They had to prove to me that they have a legitimate mission because otherwise it mutes the purpose,” Patella said.

The highlight of the event was a briefing on the 2014 Hurricane Season by Storm Team 8 Meteorologist, Steve Jerve, preceded by several community officials. Sheriff Nienhuis and County Commissioner Nick Nicholson were among the guests who gave brief talks about the county’s efforts to deal with any potential hazards associated with emergencies.

“You are the smart ones,” said Sheriff Nienhuis, “because you are here and you took the time to educate yourself on what you can do to prepare.”

Steve Jerve spoke about the effects of past hurricanes and tropical storms in the Tampa Bay area. It is an El Niño year, Jerve said, which might bring fewer named storms due to atmospheric conditions. But he cautioned it takes only one.

“It’s all about you and your family,” Jerve said. “Everyone has their own story.” He discussed his own experiences as a weatherman during some of Florida’s most memorable storms and the precautions he now takes.

“I won’t be at my home during a hurricane because I’ll be on TV,” Jerve said. “So I want to make sure everything is ready ahead of time.”

The expo encouraged residents to be prepared by pairing them with the right information to make objective decisions.

“This takes a lot of effort and energy,” said Patella. “But educating the public on hazard preparedness protects the community. No better reason exists to expend that effort and energy.”

Email Hernando Today correspondent Kim Dame at