TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Division of Emergency Management is moving from one disaster to another. The staff has juggled COVID-19 for months but is now dealing with the Surfside disaster.
By coincidence, the Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee was already handing over its coronavirus efforts to Florida's Department of Health and local officials. Authorities said that would free up DEM to put more focus on what was happening further south.
"The entire team that works in Tallahassee is activated," said DEM Director Kevin Guthrie. "The men and women there are ready to support as needed."
DEM officials said Friday the state's top priority would be providing local search and rescue teams with whatever they need work continued at the partially-collapsed, 12-story tower.
"We are teaming up here with Miami-Dade County to make sure that that happens," Guthrie said.
A slew of state help is pouring in:
- Four Urban Search and Rescue teams have been tapped to help, and four more are ready and waiting
- Mental health coordinator is pulling local efforts together
- Department of Economic Opportunity is on hand to help any impacted businesses
- State officials are coordinating with Florida State University to bring in drones. Crews could use them to 3D map debris
Florida's governor also thanked the president for sending in FEMA following Thursday night’s emergency declaration. Federal officials were arriving to help with debris removal and temporary housing.
"They're all in, and so we really appreciate having the support of the president," Gov. Ron DeSantis said. "The people of Florida really appreciate the president and his administration stepping up to help people who are in need."
DeSantis said he had spoken with President Joe Biden earlier in the day. The White House said Biden expressed gratitude for the efforts of first responders and condolences to the governor and the people of the Surfside community.
"The president said his administration stands ready to provide additional resources and assistance that state and local officials need," the White House said in a statement.