USF, Tampa area prepare for hurricane season

With the six-month hurricane season beginning June 1, USF has combined efforts with the Tampa community to prepare for any potential emergencies, USF Emergency Manager Paul Latham said.

“We’re trying basically to build a resilient Tampa Bay community,” he said. “(We’re) trying to communicate to the USF population on (hurricane, tornado and severe thunderstorm) hazards, and how they prepare for them is essential and paramount.”

Latham said hurricanes are “probably one of our biggest threats.”

“We are an open campus, and we have to make sure everyone is safe,” he said. “That open campus is important – we are part of a community and we need to work together with that community. Do they have a whole appreciation of the safeguards necessary to protect themselves and has the University employed the safeguards necessary to protect its assets here?”

He said each year USF’s Division of Public Safety puts out a Hurricane Guide to help residents prepare for potential hurricanes. The 2011 guide predicts that this year’s hurricane season will be similar to last year’s, which it states was “relatively quiet for Florida and most of the United States.”

During the 2010 hurricane season, there were 19 named storms, including Tropical Storm Bonnie – the only one to make landfall in the U.S., clipping South Florida before dissipating in the Gulf of Mexico.

On May 19, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration posted predictions for the Atlantic basin including 12 to 18 named storms, or storms with winds of 39 mph or higher; six to 10 could become hurricanes, or storms with winds of 74 mph or higher; and three to six major hurricanes, or category three, four or five storms with winds of 111 mph or higher. Each range has a likelihood of 70 percent.

On Wednesday, USF hosted a Resilient Tampa Bay Meta-Leadership Summit for Preparedness, which fell in the middle of National Hurricane Preparedness Week.

Latham said he worked to bring the summit, which helped local organizations discover ways they could work together to limit the impact of natural disasters in the area, to Tampa in cooperation with the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council (TBRPC).

“It’s an appreciation and a partnership and cooperative effort to plan and prepare for disasters here in the Tampa Bay area,” he said. “When we talk about resiliency, we’re talking about the capability of any entity, be it the private sector, nonprofit or government, to absorb the impact from a disaster. It could be a hurricane, it could be a mass-casualty incident, but to absorb that and recover very quickly.”

According to a press release, the Meta-Leadership Summit is offered by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention Foundation. CDC communications officer Mila Rossi said the move toward promoting meta-leadership is new, with Wednesday’s event only the 34th summit the foundation has held across the country since June 29, 2007.

“It is better when organizations are working together than when sectors are working alone,” she said. “One organization, like a not-for-profit, could provide 100 volunteers (and) 100 bottles of water. And then maybe a private company could provide a warehouse for supply trucks or what have you.”

Rossi said leaders who attended the event were treated to lectures and participated in activities, including work groups with other leaders where they wrote down their “gaps” – areas in their disaster prevention methods that are vulnerable or could improve – and their resources.

“This list gets passed around afterward so people know who to call in case of an emergency,” she said.

Latham said he encouraged students, faculty and staff to check the Division of Public Safety website for the 2011 Hurricane Guide, which is available now, and look for updated details on any hurricane or crisis developments.