Hurricane Drill Great Turnout

On June 3rd we had one of the biggest crowds for Monday Morning Coffee since the snowbirds left.  Around one hundred residents showed up at 8:00am!!! Polly had purchase extra donuts for the occasion.

It was our 7th annual Hurricane Drill. This year was different than the other years. This year we had three officers from the Highlands County Emergency Management come to observe how our drill worked.  They had never heard of a 55+ community doing anything like it. Peggy Kemler, Deputy of Emergency Management, was our first contact. She was invited to observe our drill and then add to what we may have overlooked. When the Planning Coordinator, Laura Strickland and the Public Information Officer, Karen Klopton heard about it, they wanted to come along too.

Between 8:00 – 8:30 a slide show was shown from 2017 when Hurricane Irma hit Sebring. Many of the residents attending today were here when it occurred. As are numerous Ft Myers Residents who went through Hurricane Ian, are now our Tanglewood neighbors. At 8:30 we began our usual pledge, song, and Billie’s announcements.

Our Manager, Angi Cummins explained how she would prepare the grounds and park buildings, and what residents should do with their outdoor ornaments and lawn furniture. Safety was a big factor for everyone inside the park. 

Our next resident speaker was Dr. William Burnham, Pastor of Tanglewood Community Church, located inside the main area of the clubhouse on Sunday mornings. Pastor Bill spoke of how the Hurricane First Responders came to be. And the lessons we learned when Hurricane Irma came over us late at night on Sept.10th, 2017. He also spoke of how the residents bonded together to help each other. 

Pam Batey,(me) followed by explaining the physical set up throughout the building. The Pet Shelter would be in the Community room holding around 70 pets. The suite room had a sign on the door that read ‘Roudy Room’ and the Library’s sign read ‘Quiet Room’. First aid kits were distributed several places and the command center would be on the stage where the volunteer officers, wearing orange vests would be stationed. Communication about the weather would go through our six two way radios and the tech support group.

Next came the scenarios: The audience observed what they should do upon arrival to the Clubhouse Hurricane Shelter. We had Lucrecia LaBozzetta checking in the residents to see if they had registered, then sent them to Greg Plank, who ushered them to the cot areas where they would sleep.   Tom and Joyce Finochio were the first couple to arrive, and they did everything right. Pillow, blanket, small luggage and a cooler.

The second resident was Mary Ann Amato, who came strolling in with a huge suitcase and in a hurry. Greg Plank, our main volunteer for in house set up of the pool chairs, Pet Shelter, and everything else, became a little suspicious of the huge suitcase and ask what she had inside of it. She pulled out an iron, bathing suit, bottle of an alcohol beverage, and something that resembled a weapon. These were of course, all things you should NOT bring to the Clubhouse Shelter. She had time to take those items back home.

Next, came a man who looked frazzled and angry. He had not signed up to come to the clubhouse, had no outdoor lounge chair to sleep on, and was upset because he couldn’t have a pool chair.  The crowd was in tears laughing as he had another tantrum when he stomped out the door. Our frazzled man was Steve, (Archie) Sapato, who played the part well.

Finally, a sensible resident arrived. Lynn Wolfram had brought a cute little schnauzer named Maggie to the shelter. She had registered earlier and had brought the pet’s crate the day before to the Pet Shelter area. She was met by Charlene High, from the Tanglewood D.O.G Committee, who will be in charge of the pets while in the shelter.  End of scenarios.

The county officers were in awe of the program. They were impressed with several things. One, the number of residents attending. Two, the entire set up of the ‘Pet shelter, Command Center, and the main floor with the pool chairs, and three, our ‘acting’ session of what to bring and what not to do. 

The deputy laughed and asked why she was invited here, since we had covered everything they would have talked about. Although, the three officers managed to keep the attention of the audience by interviewing some and taking photos of others. They had a question and answer time too.

Normally, Monday coffee begins officially at 8:30 and is over no later than 9:00. On this day, it was nearly 10:00am when we informed the county officers we had run out of time. The residents had stayed throughout the entire program. Thank you for that!  And thank you to all who helped make this year’s Hurricane Drill one you will remember, at least until December, when the season is supposed to end. 


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