BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — During some of the Panhandle’s most difficult times, first responders from across the state of Florida came to the rescue.
Our local heroes said they couldn’t have gotten through Hurricane Michael and the more recent wildfires, without the unification.
Now it’s their time to return the favor.
As Hurricane Ian’s path becomes more clear, first responders from across the state of Florida are brainstorming how they can help the affected areas.
In the Panhandle, local heroes like Panama City Fire Chief David Collier are reminded of when they were in the heart of the natural disaster.
“You know just like we saw with Hurricane Michael and even recently the Chipola Complex fires, agencies surrounding us were more than willing to send support and assets to us and we want to do the same for them,” Collier said.
Whether it was the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the Florida Panhandle or a 34,000-acre wildfire, Florida first responders got each other through it.
Statewide preparation for Hurricane Ian has begun.
“We are coordinating with the state to potentially send one of our engine apparatus and four of our personnel down to the affected areas,” Collier said.
Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in all 67 counties.
Panama City City Manager Mark McQueen applauded the state’s emergency response system.
“I think what we see is a more efficient and a more effective use of first responder assets… but also utility assets,” McQueen said.
Water and sewer professionals are on standby.
And over at the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Tommy Ford recently became the chairman of the Florida Sheriff’s Task Force– a mechanism to help coordinator sheriffs going in to help during a natural disaster such as this one.
Once the storm makes landfall, then passes, Sheriff Ford will be on the frontline of the most impacted areas in the state.
“It’s an honor to be able to serve on the task force this year and really kind of repay those debts on behalf of the citizens of Bay County,” Ford said.
He heads to the Florida Emergency Operation Center on Wednesday for task force preparation.
“I think that’s the strength of Florida Law Enforcement is we’re all in it together,” Ford said.
A team of 15 people from the Bay County Sheriff’s Office are also preparing to respond.
They’re buying food, loading equipment, and packing for possibly two weeks away from home.
The state’s eight Urban Search and Rescue teams are standing by.
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis has activated five of them. He said they will activate all eight if necessary. It’s also possible to call in resources from outside the state.