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Hurricane Simulation Is A "Serious Game" To Help Neighborhoods In Miami-Dade, Broward Prepare

One of the prop newspapers used in a simulation designed to help people in Broward and Miami-Dade prepare their neighborhoods for future storms.
Kate Stein
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The newspaper headline for August 28, 2019, reads: “Category 5 Hurricane Expected to Hit Homestead, South Miami in Three Days.”

It’s a prop, part of a hurricane preparation event for Broward and Miami-Dade residents who gathered Saturday at Miami Dade College.

But the challenges it describes -- dwindling gas supplies, food shortages at grocery stores, a last-minute evacuation order -- are very real pre-hurricane problems in South Florida.

Krystal Freeman of North Miami knows firsthand. She rode out Hurricane Irma last September with her two sons and her mother and saw how a hurricane's impact extends beyond the actual storm.

"Most of the neighborhood grocery stores were wiped out pre-storm, and after the storm there wasn’t much food available for us, either," she said. "All of us should work together with the government to ensure that everyone is safe and has sufficient supplies."

That proactive, collaborative attitude toward hurricane challenges was the main idea of Saturday's disaster response simulation, which organizers called "Serious Games." 

People from South Dade talk about takeaways from the "Serious Games" simulation.
Credit Kate Stein / WLRN
The Florida Channel
People from South Dade talk about takeaways from the "Serious Games" simulation.

About 120 residents of mostly low-income neighborhoods in Broward and Miami-Dade brainstormed solutions to hurricane evacuation challenges and hurricane-induced crises like flooding of the Turkey Point nuclear power plant and long-term air conditioning outages. Their efforts focused on identifying resources already within their communities, and building those resources into the hurricane plans of local governments and utility providers.

"A lot of initiatives don't include the people they're supposed to support," said Nancy Metayer, who helped organize the event for the non-profit New Florida Majority. "This is a way for the community to come together and say, 'Listen, you know, I have a voice. I care about this and I really want to be included in whatever plans the county or city has.'"

Easton Harrison, an activist from Lauderdale Lakes who helped lead the discussion for Broward neighborhoods, echoed a refrain that's becoming common among South Florida emergency planners and community organizers alike: Your neighbor is your first responder.

"We can no longer wait on government officials to make sure that we're well taken care of. Not that they can't do their job -- but at the end of the day, the community is the main people out there, walking from door to door and making sure you're okay," he said. "My hope is that we can work in concert with elected officials and legislators on a cohesive plan."

Several elected officials and emergency managers from Miami-Dade and Broward stopped by throughout the course of the daylong event. Metayer emphasized the goal was to have them listen to residents' ideas -- which ranged from communication "hubs" with power and Internet, to solar-powered coolers -- and ultimately include those ideas in local and regional emergency plans and resilience strategies.

Grants of $5,000 to $10,000 will also be available to help implement some of the plans. The money comes from donations to the Florida Disaster Preparedness Plan, a grassroots effort that organized " community emergency operations centers" statewide after Hurricane Irma.

If you need a shelter that's equipped for disabilities or special needs, or if you need help evacuating before a hurricane, register with Miami-Dade County by clicking here or with Broward County by clicking here.

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Kate Stein can't quite explain what attracts her to South Florida. It's more than just the warm weather (although this Wisconsin native and Northwestern University graduate definitely appreciates the South Florida sunshine). It has a lot to do with being able to travel from the Everglades to Little Havana to Brickell without turning off 8th Street. It's also related to Stein's fantastic coworkers, whom she first got to know during a winter 2016 internship.Officially, Stein is WLRN's environment, data and transportation journalist. Privately, she uses her job as an excuse to rove around South Florida searching for stories à la Carl Hiaasen and Edna Buchanan. Regardless, Stein speaks Spanish and is always thrilled to run, explore and read.