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After Shelter Chaos During Irma, Miami-Dade Replacing Red Cross With County Workers

Emily Michot
Miami Herald
Nelly Diaz and Albino Perez watch over their 2-month-old son, Nicholas, along with his aunt, at the hurricane shelter at the Miami-Dade County Fair and Exhibition, at 10901 Coral Way, Miami during 2017's Hurricane Irma.

Hurricane Irma last year strained Miami-Dade's plans for how to handle a major storm and its aftermath, and county leaders are rolling out changes as the 2018 cyclone season begins.

For shelters housing people before a storm, Miami-Dade no longer will rely on the Red Cross or the National Guard to staff the facilities, which usually are located inside public schools. Instead, Miami-Dade plans to tap its own payroll and assign county workers to staff the facilities.

"We feel the thing we have to do with shelters is we need to be as self-reliant as possible," Mayor Carlos Gimenez said. "When you rely on some other entity — I'm not saying they did a bad job — but when you rely on another entity, whether it be Red Cross or the state or the National Guard, you're always beholden to somebody else to do the job." 

Miami-Dade now has about 2,000 county employees trained to run certain operations inside an evacuation center before a storm, such as registering people, assigning sleeping areas and distributing provisions. The plans are designed to avoid a repeat of last September's messy opening of 42 centers ahead of Irma — an unprecedented activation of the county's shelter system after Gimenez issued evacuation orders affecting about 600,000 residents for what at one point was forecast as a Category 5 hurricane heading for downtown Miami.

Read more at our news partner, the Miami Herald.

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