Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Weathering Storms for over 60 Years

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Weathering Storms for over 60 Years

Article excerpt

Arc Broward's top priority is the safety of its participants and staff. No matter what natural disaster occurs, Arc Broward is prepared to continue fulfilling its goal of "Changing Perspectives. Changing Lives."

South Florida is often the epicenter of natural disasters; whether it be hurricanes, flooding or tornados and Arc Broward, a nonprofit organization that works tirelessly changing how people with developmental disabilities and life challenges are embraced and included, is always prepared to work hand-in-hand with the community to deal with these extraordinary circumstances.

That type of efficient teamwork was undeniable in early September, as Hurricane Irma, a then Category 5 storm, began barreling towards South Florida. Thanks to the longevity of Arc Broward's leadership team, as well as the knowledge and proactive measures taken by its staff-including more than 400 Direct Support Professionals and caring advocates in our community-Arc Broward's 66 adult residents, staff and its 10 locations across Broward County remained calm and above all, stayed safe prior to, during and after Hurricane Irma devastated the area.

Arc Broward provides 21 powerful programs through Broward County, including three social enterprises: Arc Educates, Arc Culinary and Arc Tech. Since 1956, Arc Broward has ensured that people with disabilities, not only live, learn, work and play in their communities, but more importantly, thrive. In all, the organization serves over 1,200 families and individuals from youth through adulthood.

"With Hurricane Irma, our community was tested beyond measure, and every day we saw more examples of community members lifting each other up in times of need," Arc Broward President & CEO Dennis Haas said. "This starts with solid experience and having a sound plan in place for all phases of a storm."

Each year, Arc Broward takes time to update and review its Emergency Plan, one that is approved by the Broward County Emergency Management Division. The plan covers all areas of concern, including communication tools, supplies, evacuation (if necessary), transportation and shelter instructions for Arc Broward's adult residents in its five group homes and Barc Housing in Davie, FL.

Having been through numerous natural disasters, Arc Broward's leadership team has learned that something new can always be mastered through each emergency, which only helps to further enhance the quality of the future plans.

Preparedness is Key: Bracing for Hurricane Irma

As Hurricane Irma approached, it quickly became one of the most powerful and destructive storms in history. Striking the Leeward Islands first, it caused catastrophic damage to Barbuda, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, Anguilla and the Virgin Islands. On September 4, Florida's Governor, Rick Scott, declared a date of emergency. Two days later, Irma's winds reached a catastrophic 185 mph, sending shockwaves throughout the state of Florida as our community extensively prepared.

Weather experts initially predicted Irma to turn north once reaching the Cuban coastline, which put it on a path towards South Florida, with an arrival in the Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. As the hours progressed and Irma made her path towards our state, the storm moved more westward, directly hitting the Florida Keys on September 10. It weakened slightly to a Category 4 and made its way up Florida's Gulf Coast. While the path may have moved, Hurricane Irma was a monstrous size, approximately 425 miles wide, so when the storm finally made landfall, it quite simply impacted all communities.

Like all South Florida residents, Arc Broward experienced the onslaught of Irma's high winds, heavy rain, tornado warnings, possibility of flooding in some areas and loss of electricity.

"Our concern first and foremost is making sure our 66 residents at our Barc Housing and group homes are safe and sound during any emergency," Chief Operating Officer Julie Price said. …

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