In turbulent times, we see the good, the bad and the ugly in people.
We also see the best and worst in the processes, procedures and systems we use to manage emergencies and reduce the impact of a crisis on our community.
While I’m not an expert, during my working life – through a combination of training, exercises and actual disaster response experience – I earned the Florida Professional Emergency Manager credential from the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association.
The practice taught me that emergency management is both art and skill.
I also learned that all communities are vulnerable to a variety of threats – the effects of which can be mitigated when the functions, resources and capabilities of government are effectively coordinated through an organized management plan.
As in most things, preparation is the key to success – and I’m not seeing that locally.
- We have an active emergency declaration due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Volusia County’s response has had all the coordination of a Chinese Fire Drill.
It has become increasingly apparent that our senior levels of Volusia County government haven’t adequately trained or prepared to respond to this growing emergency – and they appear to have no plan for effectively managing the event.
In fact, Sheriff Michael Chitwood is the only senior elected official in Volusia County government who has demonstrated strong leadership and provided his constituents with the hard information they need to protect themselves and their families – and his support of small businesses has been incredibly uplifting.
A lot of what I write about is my own nonsensical criticisms of the various political missteps, gaffes and foul-ups inherent to our system of governance – where well-meaning people try hard to get it right – but often fall short due to a cumbersome bureaucracy.
But this is different.
Just as I have a great propensity for hyper-criticism of government and institutions – I also have an equally deep capacity for acceptance and forgiveness of mistakes (because I’ve made so many of my own – personally and professionally.)
It is why I have always tried to live my life in a way – both in law enforcement and aviation – that requires self-reliance and the development of fundamental skills that help me get it right when the chips are down.
That doesn’t happen by chance – and because of my personal limitations – it requires that I put in more effort than others.
Perceiving and reacting to threats comes from constant training, learning and practice so that it becomes possible to react almost instinctively to mitigate risk – otherwise, the results can be catastrophic.
A wise old flight instructor taught me the following mantra which has served me well, both in flying and in life:
“In a negative situation I will do the best I can. If that fails, I will try again. I cannot change destiny, but I may be able to affect it in some positive way.”
Clearly, County Manager George Recktenwald is caught between a rock and hard place – torn between seven strong personalities on the dais of power and the 540,000 individual opinions that make up Volusia County.
But the fact remains, during this declared emergency, the decisions that affect our lives and livelihoods are his alone – hopefully made with the best information and advice possible – a process made infinitely more difficult by the politically motivated meddling we’ve seen in recent weeks.
In my view, while Volusia County government’s response to this crisis has been anything but unified – there is still time to get it right.
Let’s hope this week’s Volusia County Council meeting can be used to restore order and set a comprehensive path forward.
That requires that our elected officials respect Mr. Recktenwald’s authority and responsibilities under the emergency declaration – stop their toxic attempts to influence public policy from the sidelines – and support his efforts to protect the citizens of Volusia County while respecting the balance between civil liberties and those actions required to stop the spread of this microbial monster.
Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal