Apart from Gov. Rick Scott and some members of the Florida Cabinet, did you see any elected official who worked harder to get constituents through Hurricane Irma than state Rep. Katie Edwards?
I certainly didn't.
In five days, starting Thursday, Sept. 7, Democrat Edwards used email and social media to inform a nervous District 98 what was available, what to do when, what to expect, how to prepare before the category 4 storm to ease the pain when it was over.
Edwards didn't have to do it. It was an above-and-beyond-the-call public service effort from a busy practicing attorney and state representative in her third term in the Florida House.
Have a look at the range of issues Edwards covered in her main posts. Click on the links. This is practical information with shortcuts to a quicker recovery:
- Sept. 7: Emergency Support Functions by State Emergency Response Team. Soup-to-nuts rundown of what the state had going on at the time, from public health to college closings, from Lake Okeechobee protection to phone numbers and addresses for the Emergency Operations Center.
- Sept. 8: Residents Encouraged to Bookmark Home Damage Assessment Tool. How to use the Home Damage Assessment tool, vital to help first responders. Everything to assess your own home provided to get you started.
- Sept. 8: Hurricane Irma: Citizens Is Ready to Help. How and when to report a loss and file a claim with the state's insurer of last resort -- all necessary information provided.
- Sept. 11: FEMA: What to Do if You Have Damage and Need Help. Everything you need to know to begin applying for federal disaster assistance.
Remember, up until the day before Irma made landfall, the National Weather Center was talking about Edwards' South Florida district "in the projected path." And some of the towns and cities she represents -- Plantation, for example -- were originally carved out of the Everglades. It's an area that can suffer flooding after a heavy rain.
Harry Winters, a Sunshine State News reader and transplanted New York cab driver, told me,"Katie isn't my rep, I live in Fort Lauderdale. But I'm on her email list, and this stuff she sent out about the storm came at just the right time. She helped me think the storm through," he said. "I took pictures of everything in my house, I got ready and kind of felt confident on Sunday. ... She gets some of the credit."
Edwards explained Tuesday she has a communication habit that goes back to her days at the Dade County Farm Bureau. "I started as director of communications there. We developed a crisis communications plan. I got information from all the different agencies and coordinated it. Over the years I developed a fairly large database, which is what helped me put together the Hurricane Irma information."
Edwards likely isn't done. She has a long list of observations in the storm's aftermath, relating many of them to helping businesses reopen and Floridians get back to work. She said legislators will have learned lessons from Irma, which we need to document. "We need to correct the laws that are failing us," she said.
In the meantime, the representative from Plantation deserves the thanks her community is giving her. Her public service effort during Irma's frightening approach was truly stellar.
UPDATED AT 11;20 A.M. TO CORRECT REP. KATIE EDWARDS' TERM OF OFFICE: EDWARDS IS SERVING HER THIRD TERM AND WILL RUN IN 2018 TO SERVE HER LAST TERM IN THE FLORIDA HOUSE.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith