Plan is set

Last June, the state tested its plan, and the response was generally favorable. But 10 days after that test was over, on July 3, the state's emergency-operations center became active for real as Tropical Storm Alberto prepared to make landfall in the Panhandle.

``I never dreamed all those people would be back there 10 days later,'' Myers said.

And they stayed there for more than six weeks as Tropical Storm Beryl followed Alberto, making landfall and adding to the flooding in the same part of the state.

For the emergency-operations center in Tallahassee, representatives of state and federal agencies and private organizations served as liaisons for the people in the affected counties as the 16 emergency-support functions of the plan were put into place.

The plan is simple, Myers said. If an impacted county is overwhelmed with transportation needs, that county's emergency manager calls the state center where a representative of the state Department of Transportation is prepared to respond.

Depending on the need, that person determines the best way to provide the resource. If Holmes County, for example, needs trucks, the DOT person looks at what's available from other counties and decides how to bring the trucks in. The system works the same way for other needs: firefighting, public works, and food and water delivery, for example. The system is not limited to tropical storms. It was put into place -- but not needed -- for a tornado in Putnam County in May 1995 and the 1994 accident at PCR Inc., a specialty chemical manufacturer, in Gainesville.

"During Alberto and Beryl, 33 counties that were not impacted by the storm were used,'' Myers said. "And Beryl hit at the same time as the mass immigration in the Keys. That was an emergency we were part of as well.''

Due to worsening economic conditions in Cuba in 1994, thousands of Cubans attempted to cross the Florida Straits during several weeks last summer. Many of them made it to the Florida Keys, overwhelming Monroe County's ability to deal with the emergency.

"That's how it works,'' Myers said. "It could be any kind of emergency. It all boils down to getting the information out and getting the resources in.