Most Floridians remember Thursday, May 4th with blue skies and calm seas. However, Emergency Management professionals, First Responders, and USF CERT Members remember a different scenario: A Category 4 Hurricane plowing through the state of Florida and the Tampa Bay Area needing our help after high winds, flooding, and rain hit the area.
Each county in Florida participated in this Statewide Hurricane Exercise, including the State EOC in Tallahassee. Newscasts were created for the exercise with Hurricane Coleman's path through Florida highlighted, as if the real thing was happening.
USF CERT was activated to assist in Hillsborough County's brand new and fully-activated Emergency Operations Center (EOC), filling important positions like seats in the different Emergency Support Functions, simulating citizens phoning in hazards in the community and attending briefings. Between the 9 USF CERT Members attending the exercise, 5 filled seats in the in the EOC and 4 played community members.
The Hillsborough County EOC's Planning Section contained 4 USF CERT Members, donning their respective vests and working with professionals in Documentation and Damage Assessment.
4 other USF CERT members controlled the Simulation Cell (SIMCELL), which was charged with making the scenario a reality for those working in the EOC. SIMCELL volunteers manned phones, calling in reports of overturned busses, fallen trees, power outages, sheltering issues, and more to the call center staff, who then directed the issues to their respective Emergency Support Function representatives in the EOC next door.
After a few hours of intense coordination between personnel in the EOC to keep Hillsborough County safe, the exercise was over. Thank you to all USF CERT Members that participated, and we can't wait to be a part of this exercise again next time!