Thursday, October 6, 2016

How a Florida Mobile Home Community Prepares for Hurricanes

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A Mock Drill at an RV & Mobile Home Community
Fort Pierce- It’s 10 AM and the residents of a Fort Pierce community are being evacuated. The community sits empty as a category 2 hurricane rips through, damaging roads and homes. Streets are flooded, trees are grounded and looters are beginning to enter the community

Luckily, this was only the scenario for a mock hurricane drill at Sandhill Shores, a 55+ manufactured home and RV community. For two years, community managers Jim and Gayle Blandford have held drills to prepare residents in the event of a hurricane.

The community is professionally managed by Newby Management, and uses the Newby Management
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The Newby Management Emergency Action Team
Emergency Action Team (NEAT) for hurricane preparedness. In August 2004, Hurricane Charley ripped through Southwest Florida and damaged a Newby Management community.  From that experience, NEAT was created to respond to disasters that may occur in Newby communities. These disasters include hurricanes, fires, tornadoes, flooding and terrorism.

Comprised of 36 Sandhill Shores residents, the team works to secure the community in the first 24-48 hours following a disaster. On June 26, they gathered as if a category 2 hurricane had hit the community.
As the day begins, radios at the information desk are buzzing with updates on the community. The information team is comprised of seven members, and handles everything from resident check-ins and calls from worried family members to disaster reports and work flow for other teams. It’s the central hub, and all information is managed and distributed by this team.

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Signs described real hurricane scenarios. 
Beth Williams, who has been a resident at Sandhill Shores for the past 28 years, is on the information team. She has been through 2 major hurricanes at the community and says that they haven’t always had a response plan for disasters. After Hurricane Charley in 2004, Williams said the community was severely damaged and it took weeks to repair damage.

“When you came into the park it looked like there had been a bomb,” Williams said. “There was devastation all over. What you see on TV, that’s really how bad it was here.”

Remembering hurricanes past makes residents on the NEAT team understand the importance of their positions. The first team out in the community is the security team. They are responsible for securing the front gate, checking people in and patrolling the community. All NEAT team members have badges and special authorization to return.  All other residents are asked to wait until the community has been given an all clear.

The security team is also responsible for patrolling the community to look for looters, residents who have
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Helping an injured resident during the drill. 
returned or been left behind and other dangerous situations. All incidents are reported back to the information table. In the event that a resident has been injured, first aid stations are set up in the clubhouse.

Looking for injured, deceased or left behind residents is extremely important, because many communities are left without help immediately following a hurricane. First responders, firefighters and police officers are in high demand and have very specific conditions for the weather in which they travel.

“The first 24 hours after a disaster everyone has to take care of their own,” said Sgt. R. Ziarkowski, a deputy sheriff with St. Lucie County.

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Stick figures represented people the team might encounter.
Outside help may take anywhere from 24-48 hours to arrive, so the damage assessment team works to minimize the effects of the hurricane. They drive the community and assess damage to homes, creating a priority list for the repair team.

If a home can be easily fixed, those repairs are made. When there are more extensive repairs the NEAT team does what they can to create a safe environment.  A debris cleanup team is also deployed to help remove trees, debris and other issues that may make it difficult for help to enter the community.

During the mock drill, the NEAT team is confronted with different scenarios that they might encounter following a hurricane. A resident had returned early to discover her home destroyed and refuses to leave the spot where her home once stood. A fight broke out near the fire pit. A woman was caught trying to steal a large TV. Streets were flooded and homes were listed as damaged or destroyed.
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A resident made the stick figures to represent different scenarios.
Although these are all mock scenarios, they are very real possibilities. For residents who have been through multiple hurricanes, the situations were anything but drills. Some recall being without power, losing the roof of their home, having trees fall through their house, and waiting weeks for repairs.

Marsha Neumann, a resident of Sandhill Shores for 5 years, said she remembers going through hurricanes back to back one year. Although it was a tough situation, she said it helped prepare her.

“The good thing was that what you didn’t know the first time, you knew the second time,” Neumann said.

With several training sessions and the mock drill, the Blandford’s are hopeful their community will be ready if a hurricane hits. They are not only preparing with training, but also with supplies. Everything from garbage
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Gathering supplies ahead of time is highly important.
bags and ropes to bug spray and first aid kits.

During the mock drill, the kitchen team worked to create a delicious meal using only food they would have on hand during a hurricane. Using three cans of chicken, a large can of green beans, tomato paste, chicken broth, rice, and basic spices, created a meal that fed over 55 people.  The team will continue to collect nonperishable food in preparation.

NEAT consists of 8 teams: Security, Sanitation, Damage Assessment, Damage Repair, Kitchen, Tire Repair, Debris Cleanup and the Information Table. Sandhill Shores is working to reserve a block of rooms at a nearby hotel so the NEAT team can respond quickly after a hurricane and begin securing the community.

Despite all their preparation, the community managers and residents are looking forward to a calm and quiet hurricane season. If something does happen, they’ll know what to do, but for now they are enjoying the
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Looters are a real possibility after a hurricane. 
sunny skies of summer.

“We just have to pray we don’t have a hurricane,” Williams said. “I’ve been through two of them, so I know how they are.”

As the NEAT team wrapped up the day, they reflected on how much they’d learned. Whenever disaster strikes, Sandhill Shores will know they have a team of waiting and ready residents to help get the community back on its feet.

“Everyone learned great things. We still need to learn more, but it’s a process and that’s why it’s so important,” said W T Shoultz, a 10 year resident of Sandhill Shores and head of the security team. “All in all, everyone did a good job and we’re proud.”

Learn more about Sandhill Shores at www.SandShores.com.
Learn more about NEAT & Newby Management at www.NewbyManagement.com.

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