Editor’s Note: The Key Biscayne Fire and Rescue Department, even at its relatively small size, enjoys a far reaching reputation for quality and solid leadership. This was once again demonstrated recently with the deployment of Marcos Osorio, Deputy Fire Chief and Fire Marshall, for a statewide emergency situation. We asked Chief Osorio to recount his experience.
Once again, KB Fire had the opportunity to work inside the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Tallahassee. I was one of only four South Florida firefighters deployed for Hurricane Dorian. As the storm approached, my role was as a liaison inside the State Emergency Operations Center-State Emergency Response Team Emergency Support Function (ESF) 4/9 firefighter, search and rescue section.
This was an invaluable opportunity to experience firsthand how Florida’s Emergency Response experts function during a potentially catastrophic event. A crucial learning opportunity. With this potentially devastating Cat 5 hurricane bearing down, I saw leaders with extensive experience, making life saving decisions for thousands of people and hundreds of communities. It was an experience I could never receive in a classroom.
Being fortunate to be selected for this exclusive experience, I knew it was an opportunity to build stronger bonds with our industry’s leaders as well as leaders in the state’s political offices. I was able to demonstrate my extensive knowledge, thus continuing to build Key Biscayne Fire Rescue’s reputation for having experienced, reliable personnel able to handle the worst of times.
I also know that an opportunity like this can help make (or break) your career. You are under a magnifying glass, with a chance to build your reputation on a larger professional stage in Tallahassee.
As Hurricane Dorian approached on Thursday, August 29, I received the invitation to deploy to Tallahassee the following day. However, due to the storm’s uncertain path and potential impact to Key Biscayne, I had to decline. By Saturday afternoon, Miami and Key Biscayne was out of the storm’s pathway cone with minimal threat of impact.
I once again received a phone call, this time from Julius Halas, Director of State Fire Marshal, requesting me specifically to deploy to our state’s capital and serves as his direct liaison to the SEOC. My responsibilities were to give the director a written daily report on all resources being staged or deployed and handle any other SEOC requests. These reports were also sent to the governor and the state’s Chief Financial Officer, Jimmy Patronis.
During critical emergency times, ESF 4/9 manages 38 Urban Search & Rescue Teams throughout the state. For Dorian, ESF 4/9 divided Florida into 3 sections and divided among them to more quickly respond to needs. Helicopter Search and Rescue Teams were created, a move developed in response to lessons learned in previous storms. These teams paired with National Reserves helicopters and search and rescue teams, allowing for multiple aviation missions to deploy equipment or make rescues. Just one example of innovative thinking developed from the ESF 4/9.
It is important to note that although Key Biscayne Fire Rescue is one of the state’s smallest departments, and Director Halas has most any emergency personnel at his disposal, it was a Key Biscayne firefighter he requested for his team. This should provide Key Biscayne leaders and residents confidence knowing our island’s professionals are at the forefront on a state level. It is because of the vision of Key Biscayne Fire Rescue Chief Eric Lang, who encourages continuous learning and growth for his professionals, that Key Biscayne continues to reap the benefits of an excellent reputation -- and opportunities to showcase our abilities during events such as Dorian. Also, thank you to the Village Manager for approving the deployment.