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Message from Governor Jeb Bush

State of Florida
Message from Governor Jeb Bush

   As Floridians reflect upon the active 2005 hurricane season, it is clear that emergency management planning is a vital element of state and local leadership. Preparation and planning efforts on behalf of Florida's citizens and business community are critical to our state's emergency response and continued economic stability.
   Florida's emergency management team includes all levels of government, from state agencies, to the Florida National Guard, first responders, volunteer organizations, healthcare organizations, economic developers and utility companies. As soon as a storm is forecast for landfall in Florida, each of these groups put their disaster response and recovery plans into high gear.
   For Florida residents, planning is also vital on many levels. To encourage our residents to prepare, this year, Florida suspended the state sales tax on disaster supplies such as flashlights, batteries and generators. Shelters that provide medical care for the sick and elderly take reservations long before a storm starts brewing. To ensure that our citizens get out of harm's way in a safe and orderly manner, counties work together to coordinate and issue evacuation orders in phases.
   Natural disasters are chaotic situations even when a solid response plan is in place. But with proper preparation and planning, it is possible to restore order, quickly alleviate the suffering of those affected and get on the road to recovery. Florida learned many lessons from Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and we have continued to improve our response system after each storm. Knowing that emergency response is best administered at the local and state levels, Florida plans for the worst, hopes for the best and expects the unexpected.
   Proactive planning for business assistance also is a priority. Within hours of a natural disaster, state leaders and economic developers work together to restore business activity efficiently and effectively. Business Assistance Workshops are quickly organized and staffed with representatives from federal and state agencies to assist local businesses. Florida activates its Emergency Bridge Loan program, which provides funds for small businesses to make repairs, replace inventory and reopen for business quickly. These short-term, no interest loans are intended to "bridge the gap" between the impact of a major catastrophe and when a business has received insurance proceeds and secured other more long-term financial resources.
   Equally important is our commitment toward helping our neighbors. In 2004, Florida gratefully welcomed the Hurricane Heroes — utility crews and linemen from around the country — to assist in our recovery. In 2005 it was our turn to pitch in, with resources as well as business recovery guidance. While assisting with Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, Florida's economic development officials shared the Bridge Loan concept with Louisiana and Mississippi, both of which have recently enacted similar programs.
   Although each storm brings new challenges and lessons, Florida's citizens and business community are well-prepared for disaster recovery. Working together, Florida's local and state leaders, businesses, and economic developers have the resources, resiliency and resolve to weather any storm.

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