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Town emergency document to be condensed

July 16, 2014
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

A 174-page document that is designed to give Beach residents and visitors an understanding of weather-related vulnerabilities on Estero Island may be reduced to a shorter form in the next couple of months.

The Town Public Safety Committee has been tasked to condense the Fort Myers Beach Emergency Operations Plan by way of individual analysis, then as a group in a proposed September workshop.

"Our goal is to try to come up with a workshop situation so that we can hash this out a little further," said Safety Committee Vice Chair Jim Wray. "Ultimately, the goal is to try to come up with a minimum executive operations plan, a shorter summary of it, that we might be able to even put into use this season."

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Committee members will be thumbing through hard copies of the large document, highlighting essential points and bringing back recommendations on how to shorten the plan, which was prepared by former Planning Consultant Rodney Melsek and approved on July 24, 2006. It has not been updated since.

Public Safety Committee member John Kakatsch looked at the document and admittedly "struggled" with it.

"There's so much stuff in there. I didn't know how to grab a hold of it," he said.

Wray stated he personally reduced the document to five pages, but didn't believe the meeting was the forum to discuss what he came up with.

Councilwoman Rexann Hosafros, the board's liaison to Council, was provided a Word version of the document and will act as the "scribe" during the revision process.

"In addition, (Town Clerk Michelle Mayher) also gave me some information about resolutions that have been passed by Council since the document was written that we might consider to add," she said.

Town Public Services Supervisor Tildon Copeland referenced Annex D of the document. It is titled "Warning, Communication & Public Information and begins on page 49 and runs until page 67.

"You may want to review that section more closely," he said.

Back in late May, the Beach Council reviewed the plan and sought to have it compacted to be a more efficient "executive summary" that could be indexed to specific entries.

"It's not the kind of document one can go to in a crisis situation," said Town Manager Don Stilwell at the time.

Cereceda cited FMB Fire's emergency manual as a good document to follow. That information was passed on to the Safety Committee.

"In a state of emergency, brevity is the key," said Beach Mayor Anita Cereceda then. "That's what I found with the fire department's manual. What do we add to that to make it a clear and decisive action?"

The Safety Committee plans to have a more thorough discussion at its next meeting on Aug. 13. The date of the September workshop could occur during the scheduled Sept. 10 meeting time or during a planned joint meeting with Council.

"The goal of the workshop would be to bring forth ideas to condense these plans either individually or into one," said Wray.

The Town's Emergency Operations Plan is consistent with the National Incident Management System and the Lee County Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan and describes and details actions to be executed following the declaration of an emergency affecting Fort Myers Beach. Go to to view the complete plan.

The entire incorporated area of the Town of Fort Myers Beach is located within an area of

Coastal High Hazard as defined in Florida Statutes, Chapter 163.3178. All life and property on

Estero Island is especially vulnerable to destruction by high winds and flooding caused by hurricanes as well as their accompanying tornadoes and heavy rainfall. Large areas of the island are subject to damage from wave action of floodwaters. Life and property may also be endangered by the insufficient precautions of others, when wave action batters structures with unsecured debris and wreckage of destroyed structures.

Hurricane hazards come in many forms, including storm surge, heavy rainfall, inland flooding, high winds, tornadoes and rip currents.

Since it is a barrier island, the Town is limited by the two exit points for evacuation, necessitating advanced warning. During an emergency, utility services may be disabled, and may continue to be nonfunctional for extended periods; public safety may be impaired through lack of police and fire protection and emergency medical response; downed power lines, gas leaks and damage to structures can cause safety hazards; and basic necessities such as food, fresh water and gasoline may be unavailable for extended periods.

B.A.S.E. personnel discussed for 'dangerous' intersection

Beach and Street Enforcement officers, known as a private company contracted by the Town to enforce parking and pet leash regulations, may have another task on their plate.

The Public Safety Committee has inquired about hiring B.A.S.E to direct seasonal traffic at the Lenell Avenue crosswalk, if budgetary funds are available and Council approves such a measure. Proposed/estimated hourly charge for the B.A.S.E. service stands at $24.68.

Last month, the committee discussed costs and availability to have Lee County Sheriff's officers, LCSO volunteers or private contractor security guards patrol the crosswalk during busy tourism weeks to make crossing Estero Boulevard and a related side street a safer process at a busy and deemed unsafe intersection on the south end "walking district" of Fort Myers Beach. LCSO charges $50 per hour plus $15 extra per hour to have a police cruiser on site.

At the time, the consensus decision among advisory board members was to seek funds for a test trial during the Christmas holiday week (Christmas through New Year's Eve). Public Safety Committee has a budget of $2,000, but money may not come out of the committee budget if Council approves such a test study or if money can be set aside for the Town's next fiscal year's budget.

For the holiday week, committee members had discussed a six-hour period (noon to 6 p.m.) for which the need is greatest at that intersection. Cost was projected to be between $2,100 and $2,730 for that time frame for a full week's time for deputies, but now could be slashed in half for the B.A.S.E. personnel.

Committee pitches revised banners

New banners may be approved to be hung above two crosswalks on Fort Myers Beach.

The Public Safety Committee is looking to revise its banners to get the message out for drivers to watch out for pedestrians and bicyclists. The revised banners may read "STOP FOR PEDESTRIANS" and "YIELD 3 FEET FOR BICYCLES" if approved. Proposed banner costs involve $430 for the standard 3' by 16' banner and $440 for two 2' by 12' mesh banners.

Committee members are urging drivers to follow state law and stop at each crosswalk when a pedestrian is waiting to cross. Pedestrians should be encouraged to use crosswalks for their safety, but should make sure they make eye contact with drivers before crossing.

"The state law indicates that drivers must STOP for pedestrians that are at or within a crosswalk that is marked as such," the law says. "If pedestrians attempt to cross at a location other than a marked crosswalk or an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, pedestrians should yield to all vehicles."

Committee members are also urging bicyclists to ride with traffic, not facing oncoming vehicles. Safety brochures will be handed out to bike rental places on the Beach in hopes that education is passed on.

The board is expected to vote on the new expenditure at their Aug. 13 meeting.



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