2004 Florida Hurricanes

2004 Florida Hurricanes

The Florida Senate Bill 1276, state legislature passed in 2002, authorizing the implementation of a statewide 211 network. In 2004, Florida was hit by five "tropical cyclones" in a single year. This was devastating to residents and their property, the economy, and the landscape of Florida.

The Five Storms

  1. Tropical Storm Bonnie- a tropical storm but no casualties or damage recorded
  2. Hurricane Charley- Category 4 hurricane, hit southwest coast of FL and central FL peninsula, 9 deaths, storm damage estimated at $15 billion
  3. Hurricane Frances- Category 2 hurricane, hit the east coast of FL, caused a lot of flooding; responsible for 20 deaths and approximately $16 billion in damages.
  4. Hurricane Ivan-Category 5, hit southwest of Pensacola, FL; responsible for 52 deaths in the U.S. The Carribbean was damaged most; estimated damages of $20 bil.
  5. Hurricane Jeanne- most devastating in Haiti and the Caribbean causing approximately 4,500 death. Hit Central FL, caused 11 deaths in US and estimated $12 billion in damages.

(Data Source: Trial by Fire: How 2-1-1's Regional Response to the2007 Southern California Wildfires Underscored the Need for a Statewide Network, United Way & CAIRS, February 2008)

211 Response Outcomes

Call volume tracking was difficult during this time so it is estimated that 211 operators handled more calls than actually documented. Orlando 211 mapped call distribution by zip code to create a visual representation of most need during the time of Hurricane Charley. Additionally, the Orlando 211 operating center categorized calls by volume: Disaster-related commodity shortages (17%), Canteen Services (13%), Emergency Water and Ice and Disaster Relief Assistance (24%). These descriptions were the reasons for more than half of the calls received in Orlando during the hurricanes. 211 service centers all over Florida recognized that the nature of the 211 calls fell into four main categories: pre-storm, during the storm, immediate aftermath, and recovery.

Call Volume Tracking Examples

Lee County- estimated 60,000 calls in six days during Hurricane Charley= 10,000 calls per day
Orlando- a 300% increase over normal call volume, 19,552 calls during Hurricane Charley and Frances.

Lessons Learned

The purpose of the study conducted after the Hurricanes (FL-AIRS, United Way) was to evaluate how 211 could be better and how Florida could form a statewide network. A few key lessons learned in the aftermath were the following:

  1. 211 service centers have to be integrated into emergency response plans because of the burden removed off of first responders and front-line disaster relief organizations (p.13)
  2. Key partnerships developed with agencies such as the Red Cross, United Ways, and local volunteer agencies are critical during despair because 211 must be able to make referrals while also disseminating information to partners who can provide immediate assistance.
  3. 211 service call centers must have adequate funding so that resource capacity is available when it needs to be such as trained personnel, ability to call on volunteers, technology, access to data etc.
  4. Emergency management plans could be very beneficial to 211 staff and partners so that there is a plan of action.

In Florida, a state that has encountered numerous natural disasters, there is strong support for a 211 statewide system. Currently, Florida does not have full coverage across the state but instead has more than 80% coverage operating with a decentralized model. One major issue that has been encountered is that 211 is not an established statewide number so during emergencies statewide coordination was limited. Additionally, eligibility for funding from FEMA requires 211 to act as a major emergency system which has to be coordinated at the state level.

Key benefits of 211 services as an Emergency Service Response

A key benefit of 211 services is the fact that it provides response to callers; additionally data collected can be useful in identifying unmet needs and gaps in services. Also, the intensity of calls usually does not end after a disaster but instead increase or remain high which shows that callers are in need even after an emergency. 211 service can provide an intake service for the public sector for human service agencies by conducting initial screenings. Finally, 211 service not only serves as a referral and emergency system but also works with local volunteer agencies. For instance, 8800 volunteers were mobilized two weeks after Hurricane Charley in DeSoto County, Florida.


"Trial By Fire: How 2-1-1's Regional Response to the 2007 Southern California Wildfires Underscored the Need for a Statewide Network", United Way, 211 California & AIRS, February 2008