by Max Marbut
During his entire career in public safety, Lorin Mock has gone to work each day hoping he won’t have to actually perform the tasks he has been training for since he graduated from high school.
He began as a volunteer fireman when he was in his teens and today is Chief of the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Departments (JFRD) Emergency Preparedness Division and Duval County Emergency Preparedness director. Since joining JFRD in 1981 he has been an engineer, part of JFRD’s management Services Improvement Team, a member of the Haz-Mat (hazardous materials) Team, spent two years at the Fire Training Academy and also worked on the Computer-aided Dispatch System before being appointed chief of the Operations Division in 1998.
Since 2006, he has been Chief of Emergency Preparedness based on his Homeland Security and crisis management training.
This time of year being hurricane season, Mock said he sometimes feels more like a meteorologist than a crisis management professional.
“I got quite a bit of training from the National Weather Service. They gave me a course I call ‘Hurricane 101’ and real-time communication technology has made it easy for those of us in public safety and the public to follow what’s happening with the weather,” he said.
If a hurricane is approaching the North Florida coast, the EOC will be activated to be ready to provide resource management before during and after the event. Dozens of City officials would move into the self-contained command center at JFRD headquarters where they could remain for as long as two weeks. In addition to maintaining county-wide and even state-wide communications, their systems are in place to coordinate everything from removing debris to restoring utilities and getting drinking water and ice into neighborhoods after a catastrophic storm. Mock said every hurricane that has ever made landfall has been a learning experience for preparedness and first response, especially Florida’s Andrew and New Orleans’ Katrina.
“All of our protocols are based on the National Incident Management System. The entire system is set up to allow any person from any division or agency to open the book and perform effectively as soon as the EOC is activated. Our task is to supervise implementation of the community’s search and rescue and human services needs. We have to have as close to seamless coordination as possible between the local, state and federal efforts,” said Mock.
Preparing for a natural disaster is a three-part effort, he added.
“First comes personal preparedness. You have to either be prepared to evacuate or be ready to take care of yourself and your family for at least the first 72 hours after an incident. Then there’s preparedness for businesses,” said Mock. “Every business needs to have a continuity of operations plan for issues like how to operate if there is no electricity or your staff can’t get to work for several days as well as preservation of records.
“The third part of the equation is government preparedness. That’s my job.”
Since Jacksonville hasn’t had a significant hurricane strike since 1964, Mock said there can be a tendency for people to be complacent and that could lead to tragedy on top of disaster.
“If we have a storm with 100 mph winds, the entire tree canopy will be destroyed. The reality is it will take a number of weeks to return to even close to normal. The other thing that must be realized when it comes to a major hurricane making landfall here is it’s not a question of ‘if?’ it’s a question of ‘when?’”
Mock said even though he’s glad to go see the EOC empty and quiet every day when he leaves the office and goes home, he’s sure when it’s eventually needed, the facility and the people who will staff it will be ready.
“The people of Duval County can be confident. We have the problem areas identified and a plan in place to handle them,” said Mock. “The cavalry is literally just over the hill.”