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Informal "Emergency Ops Center" Looks For Volunteers To Help Hurricane Prep For Low Income Residents

Kate Stein
Bean Blackett, center, is among the volunteers helping coordinate an emergency grassroots response to Hurricane Irma for people in Liberty City, Little Haiti and other low-income communities in Miami-Dade and Broward.

An informal “emergency operations center” serving Miami-Dade and Broward counties is offering help for low-income, disabled and elderly people -- and it's seeking volunteers.

The Miami Climate Alliance, the CLEO Institute and the New Florida Majority are coordinating the grassroots effort to help people prepare for the storm and its aftermath. They’re taking calls and deploying volunteers to help board up windows and make other hurricane preparations. They’re also accepting donations of hurricane supplies.

In a sunlit conference room at the Cushman School on Miami's Upper East Side on Wednesday morning, they strategized how to connect with low-income South Florida residents who have limited resources to prepare or evacuate for the storm.

"This is where community comes together," said Nancy Metayer of the New Florida Majority. "It's letting people know, hey, if you need a place to stay... your home is my home."

With Google Docs for Miami-Dade County and Broward County, the alliance is offering residents guidance on everything from how to sign up for emergency alerts to the locations of pet-friendly shelters. They say they'll also be using the docs to recruit volunteers to help with storm preparations.

Metayer says the goal isn't to replace the resources offered by Miami-Dade and Broward counties. But because resources like Miami-Dade's 311 help center had long wait times on Wednesday morning, she says the alliance wanted to provide extra support to people who may be panicking about the storm.

"People are trying to figure out what to do, where to get their resources," she said. "Stay calm. If you don't have any water as of now, fill your bathtub, fill any empty jugs."

For prospective volunteers, Metayer says people should take care of themselves and their own families before trying to help others. That includes storing at least three days' worth of hurricane supplies for every family member and providing your plans for the storm to people who can check on you once Irma passes.

Once that's taken care of, Metayer says, she's recruiting extra supplies and volunteers to help others prepare for the storm.

To volunteer or get help from the Miami Climate Alliance Emergency Operations Center, email nancy@newfloridamajority.org or call 954-857-5441.

You can also receive preparedness tips by texting "STORM17" to 90975.