Florida Division of Emergency Management Led Historic Response and Recovery Endeavors in 2023
TALLAHASSEE FL - Today, the Florida Division of Emergency Management (Division) highlighted the State of Florida’s groundbreaking emergency response actions taken in 2023 and the Division’s ongoing disaster recovery efforts supporting resiliency in impacted communities statewide.
“Through Governor Ron DeSantis’s leadership and dedication, the Division was able to reach recovery milestones faster and spearhead recovery and resiliency initiatives like never before” said Division Executive Director Kevin Guthrie. “I want to thank all of the local, federal and nonprofit partners that assisted the State Emergency Response Team to serve Floridians in their times of need this year.”
2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season
Hurricane Idalia – Hurricane Idalia made landfall near Keaton Beach (Taylor County) at 7:45 AM EDT on August 30, 2023, as a Category 3 Hurricane with maximum sustained winds around 125 mph. Idalia became the first major hurricane on record to make landfall in this portion of the Florida Big Bend. Idalia brought devastating storm surge of 7-12 feet above normally dry ground to the coastline in Levy, Dixie, and Taylor Counties. The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) approved Governor Ron DeSantis’ request for a Major Disaster Declaration for the State of Florida as a result of Hurricane Idalia on August 31, 2023.
- Emergency Services –During Hurricane Idalia, 8 Urban Search & Rescue teams were deployed in support of relief operations. 92 medical facilities were evacuated, and 2,012 public water systems affected. Over 200 Law Enforcement missions were completed in impacted areas.
- Infrastructure– Within two days of landfall, over 44,500 utility restoration personnel were responding in Florida, with over 20 states providing support. Thanks to the continuous work of these restoration personnel along with assistance from the Florida Department of Transportation, the Army National Guard and Florida Forest Service in debris clearance, over 114,000 utility accounts had power within seven days of landfall.
- Human Services– The Human Services Branch supported the needs of impacted Floridians through the distribution of over 568,540 hot meals, over 2,374,848 Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), over 231,285 food boxes, and over 4,000 pounds of rice and beans were delivered, as well as 375 cases of baby wipes and 355 cases of size 1 & 3 diapers. Additionally, the Mass Care team assisted with sheltering 4,889 survivors in 111 shelters and provided 632 households a combined total of $758,000 through the American Red Cross financial assistance program. Over 100 different Volunteer Organizations worked a total of 1,320 hours ($38,835.90) that were coordinated with partners at the State Emergency Operation Center (EOC) and assisted in filling critical gaps during both response and recovery.
- Logistics – The Logistics Section supported hundreds of impacted Floridians, first responders, non-profits, and volunteers by providing 1,004,514 bottles of water, 2,374,848 MREs, 30 truckloads of ice, lodging and sanitation accommodations, and a wide variety of logistical support equipment across the impacted area. Before, during, and after landfall, the Logistics Section supported over 1,000 resource requests to provide resources and support. Two (2) logistical staging areas (LSAs) were established 36 hours prior to the state receiving impacts from Hurricane Idalia, and the LSA’s became fully operational for complete service to the disaster area immediately post-landfall. Additionally, four (4) base camps were set up across the impacted region to lodge first responders, volunteers, and State Emergency Response Team (SERT) officials to facilitate community service and public safety to the affected communities.
- Recovery (Individual Assistance)– FEMA approved the State’s request for Direct Temporary Housing for nine Florida counties. The State’s Non-Congregate Sheltering program for Hurricane Idalia is working to place the 120 households eligible for temporary sheltering through travel trailers and hotel rooms in partnership with the American Red Cross.
Hurricane Ian – Hurricane Ian made landfall on September 28, 2022, as a dangerous high-end Category 4 storm in Lee and Charlotte Counties, bringing strong winds, heavy rainfall and significant storm surge before crossing over the state, resulting in widespread impacts. The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) approved Governor Ron DeSantis’ request for a Major Disaster Declaration for the State of Florida as a result of Hurricane Ian on September 29, 2022.
- Recovery (Individual Assistance)– FEMA approved the State’s request for Direct Temporary Housing for seven Florida counties. The State’s Non-Congregate Sheltering program for Hurricane Ian has licensed 1,175 households into temporary travel trailers, which have allowed them a safe, sanitary and secure place to stay while they navigate their individual recovery plans. The State’s limited home repair program has also completed over 530 repairs for eligible households through its partnership with 10 Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOADs).
Israel Evacuation Support - In response to the horrific attack against Israel on October 7th, Governor DeSantis issued Executive Order 23-208 allowing the State of Florida to carry out logistical, rescue and evacuation operations for Florida residents seeking transportation back to Florida and provide necessary law enforcement support for Jewish communities in Florida. As part of that mission, the State Emergency Response Team safely flew back over 700 Americans from Israel to Florida and received supportive resources made available by several Florida state agencies and volunteer organizations. A Multi Agency Resource Center (MARC) was established at the Tampa International Airport to receive passengers returning to the United States from Israel, and the MARC supported all identified unmet needs and coordinated state resources and nonprofit support.
Additionally, two cargo planes carrying 85 pallets of critical supplies arrived in Israel, including bandages, hospital gowns, IV kits, needles and syringes, ventilators and comfort items for children. These donated goods were requested by hospitals and other government agencies in Israel and were sent through the collaboration of Florida hospitals, local communities, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, Florida Division of Emergency Management and various Israeli partners.
Mass Migration - On January 6, 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis signed EO 23-03 declaring a State of Emergency for the State of Florida due to the influx of migrant activity along the Florida coastline. The Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) then activated its Emergency Operations Center to a Level 2 to facilitate the coordination of state assets to increase coastal vigilance and provide improved situational awareness on migrant activities.
The Florida National Guard, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Florida Highway Patrol continue to coordinate with their federal counterparts to interdict migrants and remove discarded migrant vessels.
Broward County Flooding– An extensive flood event developed along the urban corridor of Southeast Florida as heavy showers and thunderstorms repeatedly drained over the cities of Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, and Dania Beach. Multiple hours of excessive rainfall rates prompted the National Weather Service in Miami to issue the first ever Flash Flood Emergency in Broward County on April 12, 2023. The heaviest rainfall of 25.91” was observed at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, a record-breaking total that surpassed the previous daily rainfall record set in 1979, in addition to two EF-0 tornadoes which occurred within this weather system, one in Dania Beach and the other in Hollywood. The flooding resulted in 92 water facilities being affected. Florida Highway Patrol escorted fuel tankers to resupply refueling stations throughout affected areas, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission deployed highwater vehicles to assist with emergency response in flooded areas, and the Division supplied nearly 700,000 gallons of unleaded fuel to 62 local gas stations within the affected area to minimize the disruption of gas for the public.
Disaster Recovery Funding
Throughout the state’s response efforts, FDEM continued to prioritize recovery funding for communities impacted by recent disasters. The Division has distributed more than $9 billion in critical disaster funding during Governor DeSantis’ tenure – the most the Division has ever paid out within five years. Disaster recovery funding programs include:
- Public Assistance – The Division distributed more than $5.8 billion in FEMA Public Assistance funding, helping communities rebuild after a disaster. This funding supports local governments recovering from recent disasters, including hurricanes, flooding, tornadoes and wildfires.
- Hazard Mitigation Grant Program – The Division approved over $55 million in long-term hazard mitigation projects in areas impacted by disasters to help build more resilient communities. Two application periods were held for HMGP in 2023, including Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole, and the Bureau received 528 and 125 sub-applications respectively. The Division provided significant technical assistance to potential subapplicants with their application development and submission at no cost to the subapplicant resulting in stronger applications which will help reviews and project awards to move more quickly. A historic amount of HMGP funding has been allocated to Florida for Hurricane Ian at $1.17 billion. The Bureau opened the application period for HMGP for the April Broward County Flooding in December and will be close on March 19, 2024. The Bureau expects to publish the funding opportunity for HMGP for Hurricane Idalia in January 2024.
- Florida Citrus Recovery Block Grant Program – The Division distributed over $320 million to citrus producers who suffered citrus crop damage. This funding can support projects such as irrigation and drainage system repair and grove rehabilitation activities.
- Timber Recovery Block Grant Program – The Division distributed over $250 million to agricultural producers who suffered timber loss. 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
Response to Hurricane Idalia prompted the Division to request mutual aid through 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. During Hurricane Idalia, 6 EMAC missions were fulfilled by 4 assisting states, bringing in 5 responders to support with EMAC A-Team activities, All-Hazards Incident Management Teams management and Voluntary Services.
Due to the significant number of states who have provided Florida with assistance during times of need, the Division always stands ready to assist and provide aid to states responding to disasters. FDEM mutual aid efforts to assist other states this year include:
- 2023 Mississippi Tornado- Florida provided assistance following the March 24, 2023, tornado in Mississippi including AHIMT and recovery support. Support was received through Division staff as well as additional local assets throughout the state.
- Texas Border Support- At the directions of Governor DeSantis Florida provided assistance to the State of Texas border efforts from May 2023 through December 2023 via law enforcement support from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Highway Patrol, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
- Vermont Flooding – Florida provided EMAC A-Team support, four Floodplain managers, and Individual Assistance officers; both physically and virtually.
- Iowa Building Collapse- At the direction of Governor DeSantis, Florida deployed a small team comprised of Urban Search and Rescue and Department of Transportation personnel to assist following the Iowa building collapse on May 28, 2023.
- Hawaii Wildfires- Florida provided Voluntary Liaison assistance to the state of Hawaii following devastating wildfires in the summer of 2023.
- Hurricane Hillary, California- In August 2023 Florida deployed a Plans Chief and a Recovery Chief to California to assist with response efforts related to Hurricane Hillary.
State Preparedness and Training
The Florida Division of Emergency Management is committed to its goal of minimizing the impact of disasters on our communities, property, economy, and environment in the state. That means leading a comprehensive Training and Exercise (T&E) program to ensure our first responders, emergency managers, government leaders, non-governmental partners, and private citizens have the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to perform key tasks when disasters strike. The State’s Integrated Preparedness Plan (IPP) provides a roadmap to accomplish this goal.
- In 2023, the Division conducted 746 courses, training approximately 10,431 first responders, emergency managers, government leaders, non-governmental partners, and private citizens.
- Exercises help build preparedness for threats and hazards by providing a low risk, cost effective environment to:
- Test and validate plans, policies, procedures, and capabilities
- Identify resource requirements, capability gaps, strengths, areas for improvement, and potential best practices
- Continuity of Government (COG) focused on Security, Protection and Law Enforcement in response to the potential consequences of a terrorist attack on the Capitol during Session. Processes and decision-making are more important than details. Emphasis is on notification, coordination, and relocation of the Executive Office of the Governor.
- Continuity of Operations (COOP) focused on State Emergency Response Team (SERT) Team Continuity of Operations in response to the potential consequences of a terrorist attack on the Capitol during Session. Processes and decision-making are more important than details. Emphasis is on notification, coordination, and relocation of the SERT
In 2023, the Florida Division of Emergency Management implemented the State Non-Profit Security Grant Program created during Special Session 2023-C. The purpose of this grant is to award funding to increase security and safety for nonprofit entities at high risk for violent attacks and hate crimes. The Florida Legislature appropriated $20 Million to the Division to award to eligible applicants, including houses of worship, schools, museums, and community centers at high risk for violent attacks or hate crimes. Applications for this program are now open through Division’s Enterprise Solution (DEMES) platform. More information can be found here.
The Division also paid out over $13.9 million in the following preparedness grant programs for FY2022-23:
- $6.5 million in the Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) Program, ensuring that all 67 counties within the State of Florida have the capabilities to prevent, prepare, protect, respond to and recover from disasters.
- $7.4 million in the Emergency Management Performance and Assistance (EMPA) Program, assisting counties, Volunteer Florida, and Civil Air Patrol (CAP) in implementing and administering county emergency management programs including management and administration, training and operations.
Legislative Appropriation Program
In the Aftermath of Hurricanes Ian and Nicole, the Florida Legislature appropriated $350 million for a Repair and Recovery Program hurricane repair and recovery projects. Funds provided through this Program can provide resources for: mitigation of local and county revenue losses and operating deficits; infrastructure repair and replacement, including road, sewer, and water facilities; beach renourishment; and debris removal.
The division received almost 400 applications totaling over $1 billion in requests. Funding considerations for the full $350 Million were made to 26 eligible recipients to support their FEMA Public Assistance projects, infrastructure projects, as well as losses in revenue.
Due to the success of this program, during Special Session 2023-C, the Florida Legislature provided an additional $50 million for the counties declared for Hurricane Idalia. Application intake is currently underway.
Senate Bill SB4A
During the 2022 Special Session, the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 4-A allocating $350 million to provide one-half of the required match for FEMA’s Public Assistance (PA) program to local governments impacted by Hurricane Ian (DR-4673) and Hurricane Nicole (DR-4680).
The Recovery Bureau has implemented the program and has started to allocate the fundings to eligible applicants that have opted in.
As of November 21, 2023, 108 applicants have opted in and over $2 million has been processed by the bureau.