Monroe County has an offer for those who want to return home right away after a hurricane: Take a 32-hour training course and get a special pass that will get you back in the first days after a storm, before the general public.
“People need to know how to come back in a safe, reasonable manner,” said Monroe Emergency Management Director Martin Senterfitt. “Come back in quickly, help their neighbors but do it without getting hurt.”
The Monroe Emergency Reserve Corps isn’t intended only for hurricanes — the county is seeking people who can help in any emergency, like the recent wildfire on Big Pine Key.
The course will cover several different areas.
“We’ll be talking about disaster safety. We’ll be taking organizational structure and how to communicate. And then most importantly, what does it really mean to be self-sufficient when you come back in,” Senterfitt said.
The course will also cover how to place debris so it doesn’t block access to utilities.
An initial meeting about the new volunteer corps drew about 75 people to a meeting on Monday evening in Marathon. Among them was Paul Rowe of Stock Island. He stayed in the Keys for Irma and said he thought the training has potential.
“If we can get to a point where we can at least communicate some truth up and down the Keys, and ideally from the mainland, then yeah, I think it has a big potential to help,” he said.
The county is now gathering information on how many people are interested in the training and plans to start the classes right away.
One of Senterfitt’s goals is to get more people willing to evacuate if they know they can return quickly. But many who attended the Monday session said they intend to stay.
William Roletter stayed in Key West for Irma and fed people afterward from the Salty Angler, a Duval street restaurant.
“There’s an elderly and a poor community that exists in Key West that people forget about. They couldn’t get out, didn’t have somewhere to go, didn’t have someone to go stay with, couldn’t afford a hotel room,” he said. “They had nowhere to go and they were going to need help.”
To sign up with Monroe County as a volunteer, use this form.