Florida Division of Emergency Management Celebrates Accomplishments in 2021
Today, Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) highlighted the state of Florida's response efforts taken this year in addition to the Division's commitment to long-term recovery efforts from recent disasters and supporting the development of resilient communities against future hazards.
"I would like to thank my staff at the Division for their continued dedication to ensuring the State of Florida can answer the call when disasters strike," said FDEM Director Kevin Guthrie. “In my six months as Director, we have not only continued to prepare our state for natural and man-made disasters, but also responded to unprecedented events such as the Surfside Building Collapse. Under Governor DeSantis’ steady leadership, the Division has continued to foster a more resilient Florida by helping our communities continue to recover from and mitigate against future disasters.”
COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution
Once the COVID-19 vaccine became available in Florida, the Division led the way in vaccine access through proactive strategies that put Florida’s “Seniors First” and protected our most vulnerable populations. Through partnerships with faith-based communities, pharmacies and hospitals, the Division administered more than 6.7 million vaccine doses and hosted more than 2,000 vaccine sites throughout the state. As part of the state’s COVID-19 response, the Division’s vaccine distribution accomplishments include:
- In January, Florida was the first state in the nation to begin offering vaccines to staff and residents of to more than 4,000 long-term care facilities and more than 3,000 assisted living facilities in the state. Governor DeSantis directed FDEM, the Florida Department of Health and the Florida National Guard to mobilize EMS strike teams to immediately begin offering the vaccines prior to the launch of Operation Warp Speed.
- In January, Governor DeSantis directed the Division to identify places of worship and other locations in underserved communities where the COVID-19 vaccine may be administered. Through this initiative, the Division partnered with more than 200 places of worship statewide and administered more than 106,000 doses.
- In January, the Division partnered with the Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists to deploy volunteer nurses to state-supported vaccination sites. Through this partnership, the state had more than 3,300 volunteers statewide.
- In February, the Division launched the Statewide Homebound Vaccination Program, beginning with Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans. This was a first of its kind program that reached more than 26,000 Floridians.
- In March, the Division began hosting mobile vaccination clinics to increase vaccine access to Floridians. The Division coordinated with local community organizations to host mobile, one-day vaccination clinics resulting in more than 30 mobile vaccination events per day statewide and administered more than 161,000 doses.
- In June, the Division transitioned all state-supported vaccination sites into a locally-led public health effort. When the state surpassed more than 10.1 million Floridians vaccinated, COVID-19 vaccinations became available through primary care providers, retail and pharmacy locations, county health departments under the Florida Department of Health and local governments. This transition moved the State Emergency Operations Center to a Level 2, after being activated a Level 1 for more than 445 days in response to COVID-19.
Disaster Recovery Funding
Throughout the Division’s response efforts, FDEM continued to prioritize disaster recovery funding for communities impacted by recent disasters. Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, the Division has distributed more than $6.2 billion in critical disaster funding in less than three years – the most the Division has ever paid out within three years. Disaster recovery funding programs include:
- Public Assistance – This year, the Division distributed more than $1.1 billion in FEMA Public Assistance funding, which helps communities rebuild after a disaster. This funding supports local governments recovering from recent disasters, including hurricanes, flooding, tornadoes, wildfires and COVID-19.
- CARES Act – This year, the Division distributed more than $480 million in CARES Act funding to counties with populations under 500,000. This funding went to state, local and tribal governments navigating the impacts from the COVID-19 response.
- American Rescue Plan Act – The Division distributed more than $707 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding. These funds are intended to provide support to local communities recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Florida Citrus Recovery Block Grant Program – The Division distributed more than more than $28 million to citrus producers who suffered citrus crop damage from Hurricane Irma. This program was developed by FDEM, the USDA Farm Service Agency and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. This funding can support projects such as irrigation and drainage system repair and grove rehabilitation activities.
- Timber Recovery Block Grant Program – The Division distributed more than $150 million to agricultural producers who suffered timber loss from Hurricane Michael. This program is managed by the Division in conjunction with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the US Department of Agriculture. This funding provides direct payment to landowners to help recover lost income from timber crop that was damaged or destroyed due to Hurricane Michael.
Mutual Aid Efforts
The Division always stands ready to assist and provide aid to states responding to disasters under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC). EMAC is a national mutual aid system that allows states to share resources from all disciplines, protect personnel who deploy and be reimbursed for mission related costs. FDEM mutual aid efforts to assist other states this year include:
- Hurricane Ida – The Division coordinated the deployment and staging of Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces 1 and 2 in Mississippi and the mobilization of Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces 4 and 50 Florida National Guardsmen to Louisiana to assist with Hurricane Ida response efforts. The Division also worked with Louisiana to identify food banks to serve individuals displaced by the storm. The Division also deployed a State All-Hazards Incident Management team to Louisiana, who provided operational support to the response.
- Tornado Outbreak – Following the deadly tornado outbreak that impacted nine states in parts of the Midwest and Tennessee Valley, FDEM deployed a nine-person State All-Hazards Incident Management Team comprised of individuals from FDEM, as well as Clay, St. Johns, and Flagler counties to Kentucky to support the tornado outbreak response efforts.
Supporting the Surfside Community
In the early hours of June 24, the Division’s State Watch Office received a report regarding the tragic collapse of the Champlain towers South building in Surfside. Local fire and rescue teams immediately responded and began search and rescue efforts. FDEM personnel were on site to assist with the response within hours after the collapse. FDEM response efforts include:
- FDEM deployed State Emergency response Team personnel, including the State Mental Health Coordinator, to supplement local response efforts, provide resources to first responders and coordinate with federal partners.
- FDEM provided PPE, spare boots and other clothing items to USAR responders to ensure added protection and safety while working on-site. The Division distributed 450 pairs of boots, 27,000 pairs of socks and 360 pairs of heavy-duty demolition gloves.
- FDEM deployed Individual Assistance and Public Assistance specialists to assist with coordinating available federal resources. Through these efforts, FDEM personnel assisted in the completion of more than 100 Individual Assistance applications and coordinated with FEMA to have more than 40 individuals approved for the Individuals and Household Program.
- FDEM issued Emergency Order 21-004, which waived certain requirements that pertain to the Florida Housing Finance Corporation’s affordable housing programs, to make additional housing units available for individuals impacted by the collapse.
- In collaboration with FDEM, Royal Caribbean Group docked Royal Caribbean International’s Explorer of the Seas at PortMiami to provide free housing and support for the tireless efforts of search and rescue teams working at the Surfside Building Collapse.
- The Division coordinated with FEMA to receive $20.5 million within a week to support response efforts in Surfside.
- The Division coordinated with FEMA to deploy five federal Type 1 USAR Task Force teams from Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey to relieve the state’s eight Urban Search and Rescue teams.
- Throughout the Surfside response, the Division fulfilled more than 200 resource requests.
2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season
The State Emergency Operations Center activated for Tropical Storms Elsa and Fred during the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season. In addition to these activations, the Division secured three U.S. Small Business Administration declarations to assist with impacts from increased rainfall throughout the summer. Efforts this hurricane season include:
- Elsa – Tropical Storm Elsa made landfall July 7 in Taylor County, bringing tropical storm force wind, heavy rainfall and isolated tornadoes. The Division received more than 90 resource requests for Tropical Storm Elsa and coordinated the deployment of 150 trucks of food and water, 24 generators and 24 water pumps to counties. The Division also provided ongoing meteorological updates to organizations responding to the Surfside Building Collapse as Elsa approached the state.
- Fred – Tropical Storm Fred made landfall August 16 in Gulf County. FDEM requested and received a Presidential Emergency Declaration, which made federal assistance available to local governments responding to Fred. FDEM also activated the Recovery Coordination Center to provide technical assistance to local governments regarding damage assessments for federal assistance.
U.S. Small Business Administration – FDEM coordinated damage assessments following flooding incidents this year, which resulted in three U.S. Small Business Administration declarations. These declarations provide disaster loan assistance to businesses, homeowners and renters experiencing disaster impacts. The declarations were for Alachua, Citrus and Taylor counties, and their contiguous counties.