Florida Catastrophic Planning
Florida Catastrophic Planning Project Overview
The FEMA sponsored Florida Catastrophic Planning (FLCP) Initiative, began in November 2006, and considered two large-scale incidents resulting in projected consequences of catastrophic proportions: a breach of the Herbert Hoover Dike (HHD) around the waters of Lake Okeechobee and a Category 5 hurricane impacting the entire South Florida peninsula, which has a population of nearly seven million.
In April 2006, experts hired to evaluate the HHD said that the dike posed “a grave and imminent danger.” If the dike were to fail, the communities surrounding Lake Okeechobee would be flooded, resulting in great human suffering and loss of life. Additionally, Florida’s vulnerability to hurricanes has long been a concern for emergency planners. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida with near-catastrophic effects. In 2004, Florida was hit by four major hurricanes, raising the level of awareness of this threat. More significantly, the response to Hurricane Katrina vividly illustrated the importance of catastrophic planning.
While Florida has successfully handled many significant disasters, it is the job of emergency management to be thinking of the next “what if” and plan for it. A direct hit by a Category 5 hurricane with a subsequent failure of the HHD could have a devastating impact—not only on Florida but also to the entire U.S. economy. Millions of people are projected to be displaced for a significant period of time. Concern over this prompted the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the State of Florida to begin the FLCP initiative in the fall of 2006.
The main products of the FLCP project are two sets of planning guidance (Federal and State) used to strengthen planning and procedural elements of the State Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan.
As part of technical assistance to develop these planning guidance, this project included data collection and comprehensive capability assessments of local, state, and federal resources to support response to a failure of the HHD and a Category 5 hurricane striking South Florida. Analysis of the assessments and draft county plans helped to identify resource gaps, inconsistencies, and competing interests for limited resources. These issues are addressed by participants from multiple agencies and levels of government through operational workgroups and at planning workshops.
The FLCP planning process was driven by a planning scenario known as Hurricane Ono. In this approach, a plausible, but fictional, event and its consequences were used to develop core concepts and coordinate existing ones. This planning process promoted communication and built stronger relationships among federal, state, local, and tribal agencies and non-governmental organizations that are critical in an effective unified response and recovery.
The Hurricane Ono Scenario
After a winter of drought conditions and a summer during which several lingering tropical depressions have saturated central and southern Florida, the level of Lake Okeechobee has reached eighteen feet.
Hurricane Ono, a large Category 5 hurricane, makes landfall at 11 a.m. EDT on Monday, September 10, just north of Fort Lauderdale. The storm travels northwest across the state, maintaining Category 4 strength as it grazes the southwest reaches of Lake Okeechobee. The surge on the lake causes a breach of Reach 2 of the HHD in the vicinity of Clewiston. Tornadoes spawned by the hurricane also touch down on the dike, causing breaches in Reaches 1B and 1C near the towns of Pahokee and Belle Glade. Wind and flood control actions also cause the S80 structure on the St. Lucie Canal to fail. Ono continues across the state and, after spending 36 hours over land, exits into the Gulf of Mexico at Pinellas County.
Once over the Gulf, Ono regains strength, turns north, and makes a second landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on the Gulf coast of Alabama, between Mobile and Pensacola, before deteriorating rapidly into a tropical storm.
Preliminary models show that Ono would prompt an evacuation of nearly 3 million residents, put most of South Florida under 1–4+ feet of water for weeks, destroy the homes of more than 70 percent of the population, leave six million people without electricity; and cripple the state’s transportation infrastructure. The expected impacts of Hurricane Ono are described in more detail in the Consequence Projections documents linked below.
Strategic Sessions were objective driven to provide a cross-discipline forum for validating emerging or maturing concepts and eliminate the “white page syndrome” that often inhibits development of operational plans. These sessions integrated planning among command staff, subject matter experts, responders, private sector and nonprofit stakeholders. Prior to Strategic Sessions draft documents were compiled using available research, existing best management practices, after-action reports, workshop notes, and required resource analysis from assessment or decision tools. These initial drafts were reviewed by local emergency management, discipline specific workgroups, coalitions and associations. Participants within the session were asked to accept, adapt, reject or create planning language that will be operationally viable.
Scenario-Based Resource Planning and Decision Tools
Scenario-based resource planning used the project scenario to establish a common framework for evaluation of capabilities across a region and throughout the multiple levels of emergency management. Since real life disasters do not generally follow a plan, the formulas and calculations inherent to an effective decision-making process need to be captured. This process gathered key steps and skills known to experienced individuals and converted them into accessible institutional knowledge. These formulas and calculations were expressed in the form of decision matrices that can be manipulated to provide a means of quickly determining resource needs and shortfalls for various events. In the planning stages, the information provided by the matrices allowed the entire emergency management system to be analyzed for gaps. On the ground, the matrices enabled rapid, informed decision-making during response. Finally, the development of the matrices highlighted policy limitations for official consideration both prior to and during events. FLCP decision matrices were intended to satisfy the requirements of the scenario and to provide a scalable, adaptable tool for emergency managers to use in the field.
Function & Discipline Specific Workgroups
Function and Discipline Specific Workgroups were developed to promote cross-jurisdictional (vertical) integration, cross-discipline (horizontal) integration and outcome driven planning. Designated workgroup leads coordinate stakeholder interaction/participation, identify workgroup objectives, provide subject matter expertise, and identify inter-discipline collaboration opportunities. Workgroups were comprised of local, state and federal partners to ensure that each planning guidance defines appropriate outcomes, addresses discipline specific issues, and develops mature operational procedures. The 15 workgroups are listed below:
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