Hurricane disaster exercise held in Sarasota

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SARASOTA, FL. - With the official start of hurricane season in less than two weeks, it is time to prepare.

While it's important for you to have your own personal plan, today authorities in the city of Sarasota practiced their plan to make sure they're prepared to keep you safe, no matter what type of incident happens over the course of a storm.

Various departments within the city came together for a 3-day hurricane exercise, with today being the day Hurricane Wendy made landfall right here in Sarasota.

The brand new city of Sarasota Emergency Operations Center is located in the Sarasota Police Department. City officials in planning, logistics, purchasing, public information, city government, and police are all were all there as part of this very real disaster exercise.

This is where all key decisions are made during a storm, like when to issue evacuations, close bridges, and how to respond to any situation that could come from a hurricane.

In the exercise, the mock Hurricane Wendy made impact, and now 1,600 people are missing, bridges are closed, there's a plane crash and a high-rise fire. While this is all part of the drill, the work being done here is very real.

“It's challenging and there's a lot of lessons to learn from doing a practical like this, but it's a great opportunity for us to try out our skills and strategies, and make sure that we're prepared for when the real thing comes…and I always feel when you practice things and when the real incident does happen, it goes much smoother,” says Chief Bernadette Dipino of the Sarasota Police Department.

Immediately after the drill, city officials will have a "Hot Wash" where they go over everything that went right and what areas could use some improvement.

Of course, authorities say the most important thing you can do to ensure your own safety is to be prepared with your own hurricane plan.