CBS News Miami investigates emergency alert systems in South Florida

CBS News Miami investigates emergency alert systems in South Florida

Miami -CBS News’ investigations delved into how decisions are made during emergencies. It included how to send alerts and how to make decisions.

CBS News Miami looked closer to finding out how South Florida leaders are calling.

In Miami-Dade County, the sheriff is the final decision-maker when issuing an emergency alert. In Broward County, multiple officials and agencies are working together to make the call. We’ve learned that Both offices rely on local, state, and national experts.

Once passed, emergency management department Ensures residents get the message.

“I’m confident that when it comes to emergency alerts, we can get the message across,” said Pete Gomez, Miami-Dade’s director of emergency management.

Gomez credits technology for helping quickly send alerts to specific areas.

“We can actually do geolocation,” Gomez said. “For example, if we get a chlorine leak — let’s say in the Port of Miami — we know which direction the wind is blowing… we can notify everyone in those areas to evacuate or shelter in place.”

Alert via phone, cable TV, local news stations, radio, social media, and if the situation warrants it: “We will actually go around and drive with the police and shoot up their microphones and send out messages,” Gomez said.

The Mayor of Miami-Dade has absolute authority to issue alerts. So far in 2023, Miami-Dade County has issued four emergency alerts. They were all sent out in February during Fire at the Covanta waste-to-energy plant in Doral.

When it comes to common issues like flooding, Gomez’s team helps inform those decisions by monitoring vulnerable areas, such as Miami Beach, by evaluating weather radar, traffic patterns and hospital conditions.

Evacuation calls, such as those when a hurricane threatens, require planning beyond preparing shelters and managing traffic flow.

“You hear it all the time,” Gomez said. “People are not being evacuated for any reason.”

A problem that Gomez believes occurred during Ian.

“They feel safe in their homes,” Gomez said. “They didn’t trust the government, and they didn’t think this event would be as bad as it was.”

Emergency management teams in Miami-Dade and Broward counties are participating in FEMA’s evacuation study to better understand what Gomez calls a complex problem.

“The psychology of how, when and why people don’t evacuate,” Gomez said.

Tracy L. said: Jackson, director of the Office of Regional Emergency Services and Communications: “Turn it into something that shapes our communities so we can increase the accuracy of our messaging and hopefully we can increase the impact of the messaging.”

Along with technology, community outreach and personal alerts, one section of Miami-Dade uses sirens — Turkey Point — where the nuclear plant is located. The map they provided shows 49 sirens in a 10-mile radius of the plant.

Both teams constantly train for any situation when it is time to alert and respond.

“We conduct tornado drills or evacuation drills or disaster drills on a regular basis where there’s an active shooter, a terrorist event, a leak at Turkey Point, or, you know, tornadoes heading toward us,” Gomez said.

“Making sure we keep up with the threats that exist in the environment, whether natural or man-made… whenever we get the opportunity, we pressure test those plans by putting them into action even in small events,” Jackson added.

Gomez says Miami-Dade’s Emergency Management Department is working on a new app where people can communicate directly with his team and provide information, videos and photos of an evolving situation. Of course, if the emergency requires immediate assistance, Gomez 911 says.

Broward plans to strengthen community outreach with schoolchildren to help them understand the importance of preparing for hurricanes and listening to public safety officials.

(Tags for translation)Emergency Alert System

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