In need after the storm? PODS are the place to be

Points of distribution systems proved effective last year in getting storm victims supplies.


Published: Monday, August 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 1, 2005 at 12:00 a.m.
Planning to stay in Florida for the potentially historic hurricane season?
Add PODS to the list of places you plan to visit post-storm.
Actually, it might be the only place to visit if your neighborhood is significantly damaged by a storm.
"PODS stands for points of distribution and you can think of PODS as sort of the retail side of the distribution chain - the place where people will drive through to pick up water, ice, MREs (meals ready to eat) and whatever else is being provided," said Mike Stone, spokesman for the Florida Division of Emergency Management. "What you get will depend on what the disaster is."
Dixie County was among the communities using a PODS system at the height of the power outages during the 2004 hurricanes. In Dixie County, residents never got out of their cars. Instead, the driver checked in at one end of the circular parking area, then slowly eased through the rest of the parking lot accepting bagged ice, bottled water, MREs and bug spray.
State officials were impressed with how well that and similar systems worked.
"After 2004 we looked at what had worked well and what other people were using in other states and then we came up with uniform logistics," Stone said. "We have asked our counties to standardize a lot of the methods being used so that they are the same everywhere."
Each county was asked to come up with its own PODS location so essential commodities like drinking water can be distributed quickly to as many residents as possible. Where to put PODS is up to local officials who are in the best position to determine that a site is convenient but will not clog roads or interrupt critical services.
"We have been talking with Gainesville about three sites and we are working on having others in other municipalities around the county," said Alachua County Emergency Services Director Will May. He expected to have the proposed sites finalized within a few weeks. How quickly each site could be opened would depend on the situation.
"When it is something like a hurricane and you have warning that it is coming, then you can let people know to be standing by and probably have these staffed and set up in three to six hours," May said. "Typically you are looking at a hurricane scenario when you are setting these up, but for other disasters, like tornados, you could have them up in 12 hours or so."
Exactly what gets distributed will be determined by what is needed and what is available, Stone said.
"It is up to each county to plan ahead to have resources available and then to make a request to the state for additional resources," Stone said.
The PODS would generally be staffed by volunteers, often members of the specially trained Community Emergency Response Teams - CERTS.
"Again, that is something that is up to each community," Stone said. "Of course, coordinating this and planning for it is something that the emergency management staff would be involved in and then the volunteers would be on-site to distribute."
Karen Voyles can be reached at (352) 486-5058 or voylesk@gvillesun.com.

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