Like many Space Coast residents, staff members at 2-1-1 Brevard have their eyes on the tropics as the traditional peak for Atlantic hurricanes approaches and in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Erika. But two critical responsibilities keep us particularly on our toes:
- First, since the 2004 season, the helpline has forged a formal relationship with Brevard County Emergency Management to respond to residents’ concerns and queries before, during and after possible hurricane impact.
- Second, a contract with Central Florida Cares Health System makes 2-1-1 Brevard responsible for coordinating state-funded crisis counseling in the aftermath of a serious storm.
“Connecting people in need with resources and support is crucial to our mission year-round,” said Libby Donoghue, 2-1-1 Brevard executive director. “But in hurricane season, and even more so this year, we have to be prepared to take that mission to an even higher level.”
Under the Emergency Management agreement, 2-1-1 Brevard specialists and volunteers may relocate to the Emergency Operations Center, or “bunker.” County phone lines are “forwarded” to 2-1-1, and the public is advised through the media and officials to dial 2-1-1 for storm information and help.
During Frances and Jeanne in 2004, 2-1-1 Brevard fielded 30,000 calls – compared with 25,000 for the full year before.
Under the Central Florida Cares contract, 2-1-1 Brevard’s communications manager, Belinda Stewart, developed a plan for local counseling providers and others to deploy in the event of a federal disaster declaration.
“We set up a framework that will get crisis counselors in the field at the earliest possible opportunity,” she said. “We want them out where they can interact with the people who need help coping with their own new realities, while we continue to offer crisis intervention and support via the telephone.”