Special Mention: Hollywood, Fla.
Services: Solid waste collection, street maintenance and construction, park/beach maintenance, fleet maintenance, public facilities maintenance, and operation of the city's marina
Fun fact: Famous former residents include “Joltin' Joe” DiMaggio, for whom the Joe DiMaggio's Children's Hospital is named.
An ounce of prevention: Thanks to a well-crafted disaster response plan, Hollywood, Fla., ranks among the best when it comes to preparing for the worst.
Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma hit the southeastern United States with a devastating one-two punch. Thanks to a well-crafted and time-tested emergency preparedness program, Hollywood was able to avoid getting knocked out.
“We've got a disaster plan that's been in place for years,” says Greg Turek, Hollywood's director of public works. “It keeps being amended to and subtracted from as time goes by.”
Hollywood's disaster plan is a comprehensive script in which each branch of the department has a specific role to play. During hurricane season, Turek and his crew monitor weather reports for storms brewing in other corners of the world that might lead to hurricane conditions in his.
When a storm looks imminent, crews take preventive measures, such as removing items small enough to be thrown around by high winds. Comprehensive efforts include everyone from the streets manager, charged with expedient clearing of road debris; to the crew that mans the phones in the emergency response call center; to the assistant director of public works who oversees contractors hired for large-scale debris removal.
On every level, staff is encouraged to find ways to better manage the recovery effort. For example, after Wilma hit in October 2005, the call center worked with the city's information technology department to create new management software, which decreases response time to citizens' post-storm service requests. The tool records residents' phone calls, marking them on a grid of the city. The innovation enables staff to quickly pinpoint the most troubled areas and prevents duplication of efforts. Also, the chief sanitation mechanic crafted a plow-like device that attaches to the front of a packer truck to push vegetation from a debris-littered street.
Hollywood's disaster response plan was put to the test like never before by last year's storms. The city had to remove a total of 900,000 cu. yds. of debris left behind after the two hurricanes. However, the department's quick, well-organized reaction enabled the beach and downtown business districts to be cleared and operational before any other municipality in Broward County. The work was hard, says Turek, but very rewarding.
“When our people charge into the damage, their adrenaline flows very much like athletes getting into the game,” says Turek. “After they've been running a chainsaw for eight to 10 hours a day, they're tired, hungry, and dirty, but you can see a sense of accomplishment in their eyes.”
— Jenni Spinner