As soon as Pinellas County and the City of Gulfport were on notice about the impending Hurricane Irma, City Manager Jim O’Reilly activated an emergency response system to ensure the safety of Gulfport residents. Mr. O'Reilly and his staff participated in every Pinellas County emergency management conference call, quickly disseminating information to Gulfport City Council Members, City Staff and Residents. There was not one instant over several days, numerous times per day, that City Manager O’Reilly did not take my call and provided answers to many questions.
Gulport Public Works Director Don Sopak and his staff readied equipment and services for use pre- and post-Irma. Fire Department personnel, under the leadership of Fire Chief James Marenkovic, worked tirelessly with CERT and others to evacuate Special Needs residents to hurricane shelters, as well as addressing emergency situations before and after the storm. The Gulfport Police Department, under Police Chief Robert Vincent's leadership, coordinated effortlessly with the Pinellas Sheriff’s Office in securing our streets. After Irma, Gulfport staff went right to work clearing trees and securing access for both residents, guiding Duke Energy through our city streets, prioritizing debris removal and much more. Critical to disseminating useful and timely information was Justin Shey.
Please note that City Manager O’Reilly and many on his Staff remained in Gulfport away from their families during the storm, as well as after Irma passed through (City Hall remained on generator power days after the storm).
As the wonderful City that Gulfport truly is, we were ready for Hurricane Irma. We will assess what worked well, what can be changed and/or improved. I know I have my list of items to review with City Manager O’Reilly, County Commissioners, our State Representative and Senator, and Congressman Charlie Crist. One very important improvement will be to grow our list of special needs residents needing assistance, as well as ensuring a pet-friendly shelter in Gulfport.