So, you’ve evacuated and you want back in? Well, there’s a new process in place for the Florida Keys that is a combination of the car window-sticker and a “placard.”
The sticker will function as it always has — color coded to reflect the Upper, Middle or Lower Keys. This most likely will not come into play until the “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free” signal has been given by county officials that regular residents may return.
But the people who are needed directly after a major storm will be issued placards. Law enforcement will check those at traffic barricades limiting access to the Keys. (This is one instance where it’s helpful to have only one road in and one road out.)
The placards would identify two different groups: emergency services workers and government employees in the first; then other workers necessary for recovery, like employees of banks. Placards will be issued to, for example, the owners of construction companies with access to heavy equipment or grocery store managers and key personnel. The private-sector group applies directly to Monroe County for the placards.
There’s one other option for early re-entry — to be a certified Monroe County volunteer. Those who take the 32 hours of training will be granted advanced re-entry in the second placard group. They even have a special name — Monroe Emergency Reserve Corps, or MERC. Members of MERC would take part in Community Emergency Response Training, CERT, which is 32 hours of training for dealing with a disaster.
“I’ve had people say that MERC members will only use it to come back into the Keys early and go take care of their own homes,” said Marty Senterfitt, the county’s emergency management director. “I’m good with that because the CERT concept is, you come in and help yourself first, then help your neighborhood, then help your community, then help your county.”
For more information about becoming a volunteer, visit www.monroecounty-fl.gov/volunteermonroe. To learn more about the placard system, visit www.monroecounty-fl.gov and search for the public information office.