Martin County preparing for Erika - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Martin County preparing for Erika

Martin County Emergency Management is keeping a close eye on Tropical Storm Erika, waiting to determine in the next 24 hours if the county will have to activate its emergency storm plans.

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If Erika stays on track to impact South Florida, dozens of county and state leaders would weather the storm at Martin County's Emergency Operations Center.

That is where many of the big decisions would be made during the storm, including where and when to send help and resources throughout the county and what information needs to be released to the public for their safety.

Bill Pecci, Deputy Director for Martin County Emergency Management, says a hurricane hasn't hit the EOC since 2004 and 2005.

Since then, the EOC has been rebuilt to be bigger and stronger.

"The space in the old building, we didn't have all the break out rooms, the press rooms, there wasn't any of that. We were all jammed in," Pecci said.

Technology in the building is upgraded. That includes stronger wi-fi, and better phone and email systems so that there is no lapse in communication.

"It's so much faster and easier. Everybody's on the same sheet of music. Before, different people were on different programs, you know? It slows things down," Pecci said.

911 dispatchers will also only be a room away from the EOC instead of being located in a separate building to facilitate faster communication.

Stephen Leighton, Director of Emergency Management for the Martin County Sheriffs Office, says additional phone lines would be added for more 911 dispatchers to answer emergency calls.

Leighton says dispatchers could receive hundreds, if not thousands of emergency calls during a tropical storm or hurricane.

The EOC also has newer sleeping quarters and showers. "People can stay here, there's showers and there's locker rooms. They can stay for an extended period of time," Leighton said.

A room has also been designated for rumor control. Crews can track misinformation being spread and release corrected information as needed.

"Thankfully we know well in advance what [Erika] is capable of doing and we're well prepared," Leighton said.

Pecci hopes to know by Friday evening what the county's plan will be regarding what resources will be needed for Erika.

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