Florida Division of Emergency Management coordinates response efforts across state

The Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) and the State Emergency Response Team (SERT) primarily work to facilitate the efforts of other state agencies, no matter what type of incident occurs.

"We're more than anything else a coordinating agency," FDEM Communications Director Aaron Gallaher recently told BioPrepWatch. "It streamlines the process, cuts through a lot of the red tape and allows us to meet the unmet needs as they develop."

For biological emergencies, the division defers to both the Florida Department of Health and two Florida National Guard Civil Support Teams (CST) that specialize in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense. Each CST guards against suspected threats and is required to respond to a crisis within three hours.

In September, FDEM participated in an interagency training event with one of the CSTs to become familiar with its equipment, abilities and procedures.

Another way the division establishes effective and timely response to any type of emergency is through the 18 Emergency Support Functions (ESF) outlined in Florida's Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan. The functions include areas such as public health and medical services, military support, and transportation. Depending on which ESF is activated, FDEM is able to respond accordingly by assisting the lead agency.

"It allows us a lot of flexibility, a lot of latitude, to go in and provide the people in Florida with the assistance they need in a timely and orderly fashion," Gallaher said.

FDEM generally begins ramping up preparedness and response efforts by distributing information to the public so residents can stay prepared. From there, the division assists other agencies in their efforts, and ensures that appropriate resources and manpower are available.

Rather than regulating response down to the local level, the division simply steps in to assist where needed.

"We work at the realm of unmet needs," Gallaher said. "If local response teams are short on resources, FDEM is able to provide that support."