Bay County commissioners approve new emergency shelter arrangement

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — In a state emergency, Bay County will now look at a new organization to take charge.

At Tuesday’s Bay County Commission meeting, commissioners approving a new arrangement, giving Bay District Schools the responsibility to provide emergency sheltering for residents in a local state of emergency.

“It’s moving Bay District Schools into more of a leadership role when the shelters are activated,” said Bay District Schools director of communications Sharon Michalik. “It is still the county’s decision if we are going to have a shelter or if they are going to open a shelter, so the county makes that decision and then we are going to serve in that facilitator role.”

Bay District Schools currently has 120 trained staff members in shelter management and is planning to train 40 more within the upcoming weeks.

“This is a new role for them, but they have really stepped up,” Michalik said. “They understand the public safety aspect of operating a shelter.”

The designated shelter sites will remain the same, at Deane Bozeman School, Northside Elementary School, Deer Point Elementary and Rutherford High School.

Commissioners feel this will help for future storms, learning lessons from Hurricane Michael.

“We had one of the longest sheltering operations in Florida history, so we learned quite a few lessons and this is one of them,” said Bay County chairman Philip Griffitts. “So we can maintain a little more control.”

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