Hurricane Michael: 2K Responders & No Power for 911 Systems

Clay pots are scattered in what used to be Dena Frost's pottery business along the main highway through Mexico Beach, Fla. Hurricane Michael devastated numerous structures throughout Bay County and other areas as search and rescue and recovery for residents, businesses and municipal services continues.
Image: AP Photo/Russ Bynum

Search and rescue and recovery for Bay County residents, businesses and municipal services is challenged by power outages after Hurricane Michael.

BAY COUNTY, FLORIDA — Search and rescue continues throughout Bay County as local, county, state and federal officials and disaster aid partners contend with catastrophic destruction caused by Hurricane Michael. Reportedly, 2,000 first responders are assisting emergency response while numerous public safety operations are powered by portable cells due to widespread power outages in the Florida Panhandle.

WPDE reported that Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Fire Rescue paramedics Michael Gilbert and Thad Bowman have not stopped working since they arrived in Panama City.

“There are a couple of semis here in the mall parking lot where we are that are overturned and behind me, kind of behind me. Directly across 231, there are two trains that are flipped over on the tracks,” Gilbert said. “It’s been non-stop. You can probably hear the sirens in the background.”

911 Systems Face Myriad Challenges

Emergency officials have been knocking on doors to find people who need help since there is no power for 911 systems.

We’re really seeing a wide range of everything,” Gilbert said. “Just general illness, trauma, they had somebody that was trapped earlier that they had to remove, they used our team, a lot of building collapses.”

Gilbert added that crews cannot work at night due to post-hurricane hazards. “Trees, power lines, it’s just very dangerous to be out after dark,” he said.

According to WJHG.com, Verizon has deployed portable cells to help first responders and critical organizations continue operations at the following locations:

  • Bay County Emergency Operations Center and 911 Center
  • Bay County Sheriff’s Office
  • Blakely Emergency Operations Center
  • City of Parker Police Department
  • FDOT Chipley Office
  • FEMA Office
  • Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center
  • Gulf County Emergency Operations Center
  • Lynn Haven Emergency Operations Center
  • Mexico Beach
  • Miller County 911
  • Panama City Police Department
  • Springfield Police Department
  • TECO Peoples Gas, Panama City
  • Tyndall Air Force Base
  • Washington Emergency Operations Center in Chipley
Bay County After Hurricane Michael
In a separate report, the NBC affiliate indicated:
  • 2,000 first responders are in Bay County assisting in response and recovery efforts
  • 5,000+ 911 calls were received on the 211 Citizen Information Line
  • 6,000+ structures are damaged and upwards of 2,000 destroyed
  • About 50,000 customers are without power
  • A curfew is imposed from 6:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.
  • Hurricane Michael Insurance Villages have been set up in various locations
  • Operation Blue Roof is supplying free, temporary coverings of blue plastic sheeting for homes with shingled roofs that are less than 50 percent damaged
  • FEMA is providing Transitional Sheltering Assistance for Bay County residents
  • The Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program has been activated

First responders are still working on search and rescue and transferring special needs patients out of the county, while municipal services and utilities continue to assess damage, clear debris, assess and restore service and coordinate county, state and federal response resources.

Access more information about disaster resources for Hurricane Michael on the Florida Chief Financial Officer’s website.

Learn about disaster management:

5 Steps to Disaster Management for Local Governments

4 Keys to Successful Emergency Management

Establishing a Medical Response Network for Disaster Prep

Emergency Public Information Kit

About the author

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox is Editor of EfficientGov.com and Senior Editor at Praetorian Digital. She is based in Massachusetts.