Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Coordinating Response Helps Speed Recovery

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Coordinating Response Helps Speed Recovery

Article excerpt

USF CLASSES: Teaching how to build coalitions for better communicationSARASOTASarasota County has not seen major damage from a hurricane in 90 years, but its coalition of emergency responders and volunteers is serving as a model for the rest of Florida and the nation.This week, health department employees, emergency management personnel, church leaders and nonprofit workers from five Florida counties are taking classes here to learn how to recover swiftly after a natural disaster.The course, offered through the University of South Florida and funded by a $4.75 million grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control, is based on the lessons Sarasota learned after Hurricane Charley struck neighboring Charlotte County in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005.Sarasota was not significantly damaged by either storm, but the county played an important role in the recovery of its neighbors after Charley and to a lesser extent after Katrina, said Bill Little, deputy Sarasota County administrator.Both disasters exposed weaknesses that the county has since corrected, he said."There was not a really good connection between the human services and the health services that are really needed post- hurricane. They weren't very coordinated and weren't very well planned and weren't very well connected to the operations that need to go on within a county," said Little, who was head of Sarasota County's Health and Human Services at the time.After years of working to resolve those problems, a coalition formed, called Community Organizations Active in Disaster. The group of emergency response and health department employees and people from nonprofit organizations and churches work year-round to make sure resources and expertise are available to quickly help people put their lives back together after a disaster."It became a model of how communities could come together and help people in times of need," said David Rogoff, director of the Center for Leadership in Public Health Practice at University of South Florida in Tampa. The center developed the coursework for the class over several years, by talking to Sarasota officials and volunteer agencies. …

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