Like many others last week, our team at UF/IFAS was preparing for the worst. For more than 10 days, we all watched and waited to see how Hurricane Dorian would impact Floridians and their livelihoods.
In the end, we were very lucky. Just a small change in the storm’s track could have been catastrophic for our state. Our thoughts go out to our friends in the southeastern states, and our hearts break as we see the images coming out of Bahamas.
Even though Hurricane Dorian has come and gone, there is much we can learn and do to prepare for the next disaster. Hurricane season is far from over, and other natural and manmade disasters can happen any time of year.
Fortunately, our statewide network of UF faculty and staff works year-round to help communities with preparation, mitigation and recovery for all types of disasters. Our efforts help support the tireless work of the Florida Division of Emergency Management and each county’s emergency management department to prepare our state and to keep our citizens safe.
UF/IFAS Extension is located in each of Florida’s 67 counties, where our people work with stakeholders in the agriculture and natural resources’ industries to help in preparations and assist in recovery. In addition, many of our faculty and staff work in their county Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs), food banks, local programs and county shelters.
We are also a trusted source of information for residents facing disasters. From how to prepare your home for a hurricane, to resources on mental and physical health, we help families bounce back. We have information
specialists in forestry and landscaping, animal agriculture, and coastal industries who help get Floridians back on their feet.
After the storm has passed, our team works with other state agencies including Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), State Agricultural Response Team (SART), and USDA to assess the impacts on agriculture and natural resource industries. The impacts from Hurricane Dorian could have been devastating. Hurricane Dorian’s early potential path to Central Florida included a 21-county region that includes crop and livestock production, forestry and fishing. These industries generated more than $4.22 billion in revenues and supported more than 63,000 jobs in 2017, according to
economist Christa Court, director of UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program. A path to southern Florida would have impacted the state’s citrus industry with almost 70,000 acres in production, an industry that is still recovering from impacts from Hurricane Irma in 2017.
UF/IFAS will continue to work to make our state’s agriculture and natural resources’ industries resilient for the next disaster, but we will not forget the lessons that Hurricane Dorian has taught us. Preparation is key. Early and proactive preparation can often lessen impacts and assist in recovery. Our UF/IFAS team is here to help. With more than 350 faculty in all 67 counties and research specialists in many different areas, we are here to work with our state and community partners in agriculture and natural resources stakeholders to ensure that our state is prepared for the next disaster.
I thank our faculty and staff throughout the state for the work they do all year to ensure preparedness for all disasters. I am also thankful for the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN), a team of Extension faculty across the country that share resources and best management practices
for all types of disasters. This network was in direct communication with us, provided resources and offered their help if needed. As the EDEN point-of-
contact for UF/IFAS, my job is to ensure our faculty and staff have the resources and tools they need to assist their communities and stakeholders in disasters.
Teachers like Hurricane Dorian help us to identify those needs and gaps in our communities. UF/IFAS will continue to work to fill those needs and gaps so that we are ready for the next disaster.