The destruction of Hurricane Michael may be last year’s news for some, but for Sheriff Kevin Crews the imminent threat it posed to those he serves has remained in the forefront of his mind. For the past 8 months, Sheriff Crews has worked to increase readiness and address issues that were brought to light in the storm’s wake.
In the days following the hurricane, Washington County relied solely upon a single public safety communications tower for all first responding agencies.
During post-hurricane assessments, it became clear the capabilities of the public safety communications system were a major issue. Aside from the damages caused by the storm, the communications system does not have the ability to sustain the service needs for the entire county as it stands.
“On a good day, first responders are relying on a communications system that does not adequately support the need in our county,” says Sheriff Crews. “Beyond the everyday hurdles of radio transmissions not getting out, the hurricane caused damages to the system that poses a greater threat to our ability to communicate when responding to a crisis. Going through this storm made me realize the inadequacies we’re facing when it came to our radio service. Losing a very small portion of what we are working with can put the public and our responding agencies at risk.”
To correct this issue and potentially eradicate the reoccurrence of public safety communication downtime, Sheriff Crews submitted a proposal for the funding of a new public communications tower for Washington County. After corresponding with Senators George Gainer and Rick Scott, a request was submitted for $600,000 to fund the project.
“Following the approval of the state budget, we learned funding was approved by Governor DeSantis,” says Crews. “I cannot express my gratitude enough to Senator George Gainer for the backing of this funding. Our legislators recognized our need and worked extremely hard to make this possible for our county. We are moving forward in our recovery, as other communities affected by the hurricane are, but we also see a progression in areas that will better equip us in the future. To me, that shows the true strength of the Panhandle.”