Hurricane Florence hit North and South Carolina on Friday, making landfall near Wrightsville Beach, N.C., at 7:15 a.m. As fleets in the Carolinas and nearby states scrambled to prepare, fleets in Florida — which had been hit by the devastating Hurricane Irma last year — joined public agencies around the country in responding to calls for assistance. Fleet professionals attending the Florida Association of Governmental Fleet Administrators' conference in St. Pete Beach this week spoke to Government Fleet about their contributions.

On Friday afternoon, with the hurricane — re-categorized as a tropical storm — well under way just a state away, technicians at Sarasota County, Fla., were preparing vehicles to be sent up north.

The county has already sent three ambulances to a military base in the Carolinas and are getting more vehicles ready, said Ron Kennedy, CEM, CPFP, Sarasota County fleet manager.

”We have three technicians ready to deploy. They did a unit resource request for inventory that we could give up, so we had three more fire trucks and three more ambulances that are prepped. If they throw out a resource request through the state, we’re ready to roll,” he said.

Orange County sent three rescue vehicles as well as a battalion chief vehicle. The Fire Department sent the vehicles over to fleet, where they got new tires and a quick check-up before they were on their way.

“They literally had hours before they had to leave,” said Inshan Edoo, assistant manager for the Orange County fleet management.

Sarasota County, Fla., fleet technicians prepped vehicles for potential deployment to the Carolinas for hurricane and storm recovery efforts, including this vehicle.
 - Photo by Thi Dao

Sarasota County, Fla., fleet technicians prepped vehicles for potential deployment to the Carolinas for hurricane and storm recovery efforts, including this vehicle.

Photo by Thi Dao

Further north, the City of Gainesville prepared to send 15 vehicles, including 55-foot aerial trucks, derricks, pole trailers, and smaller equipment for backyards, said Jason Foster, CAFM, fleet operations supervisor for the city.

“We had a list of vehicles that we were going to inspect. We made sure they were safe and performed any maintenance or repairs that needed to be done prior to leaving,” he said.

Gainesville had a few days to prepare, as the vehicles were scheduled to leave the city on Saturday morning.

Manatee County pre-staged three ambulances for potential deployment to the Carolinas. The vehicles are equipped with tires, spare parts, and wear items, said Matthew Case, EMS, fleet division manager for the county.

“We usually pick out the newest ambulances that are under warranty. We pull them in for a safety inspection and [perform preventive maintenance on] them. That way, they’re ready to go. Our reserve trucks go on the road so we don’t lose our effectiveness in the community,” he said.

Palm Beach County Fire Rescue is also preparing two units to be sent for after-storm recovery, Tim Calhoun, CAFM, fleet management director, reported.

And it’s not just municipal fleets providing assistance. Florida Power & Light Company, a publicly-traded energy company, sent about 150 company-owned vehicles and 930 employees and contractors to the Charlotte, N.C., area.

“We received a request for mutual assistance on Monday, so we had the crews on the road on Tuesday,” said Patti Earley, CAFM, fleet and fuel operations specialist. The vehicles consist of mostly bucket trucks and some digger derricks, and the staff members are mostly tree crews and construction crews, as well as some technicians to make sure the vehicles keep running.

[Updated 9/17] Florida Power & Light’s vehicles and crew stayed in Charlotte until the storm passed, and were deployed to Whiteville, N.C., to help restore power.

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