Planning ahead to recover from a disaster quicker

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SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. - It's been a long time since Sarasota was hit by a major hurricane or disaster, but that doesn't mean the area is immune to the danger. With that, and incidents like the BP oil spill in mind, Sarasota County officials are taking a step only a few in the state are doing.

They’re preparing now for how exactly we would recover.

We all know that any day during hurricane season, something can pop up on the radar any day. Well Sarasota County is one of a few in the state’s initial pilot program who are not waiting to be able to react. County officials have spent the past few years putting together a plan for recovery from a disaster before one ever hits.

"We are certainly ahead of the curve," says coastal resources manager Laird Wreford.

Apparently it's not something every area does. Sarasota County is one of only five in the state this deep into what is called a Post-Disaster Redevelopment Plan, or PDRP. "Get people going back to work, get kids going back to school, get hospitals back up and running, get the entire community as close to the whole feel and nature that makes Sarasota County what it is now," says Wreford.

Having a pre-determined plan for things like housing, public facilities, and infrastructure. Getting them back up and running as quick as possible could keep people from wanting to leave the area. That would impact the tax base.

It could also help in the big business of bringing people in. "How do you minimize the amount of loss you have to your tourism? Minimize the time the tourism type industries are down," says Wreford.

"I've seen other communities were they have to figure it out on the fly," says Emergency Management Chief Ed McCrane. He says the plan helps organize the immediate recovery and keeping people safe, too. "How are we impacting the future use of that land by putting temporary housing units there? Can that later become something permanent? Where are we putting in the infrastructure?"

Thinking ahead for more than just safety, but for the area’s financial health, too. “By investing the time, energy, and effort now, we are clearly going to save the scrambling around frantically in the wake of some major disaster under an entire area of chaos. Potentially save the community millions of dollars in so doing," says Wreford.

It all seems like common sense but as you heard many communities have not or don't do it.

By the way, Manatee County is one of the other five who are also planning ahead.