by Jonathan Evans, City Manager, Haines City
United States Lt. General Russel Honoré (Ret.), spoke to first responders from Haines City and neighboring municipalities in Polk County last Friday about creating a culture of preparedness. General Honoré is best known for taking swift charge of military relief efforts during Hurricane Katrina and his no nonsense approach that made national headlines when he told reporters, “Don’t get stuck on stupid,” in an effort to keep their focus on communicating essential information to the public regarding an evacuation plan.
Entrance fee for the event included toiletry items and non-perishable foods to support a local Haines City unit currently on tour, Foxtrot Company 53rd Brigade Support Battalion.
During the event, General Honoré spoke about three points of leadership learned from the great General George Washington: 1. Do the routine things well. 2. Don’t be afraid to take on the impossible. 3. Don’t be afraid to act even if you’re being criticized.
His explanation about knowing whether or not you live in a flood zone was simple and to the point, “If you can see water from your house, you’re in a damn flood zone,” he said. “Anything built by man can be destroyed by Mother Nature.” General Honoré greatly emphasized the importance of everyone having at least three to five days’ worth of food and water, adding that the most vulnerable populations include the elderly, disabled and impoverished.
General Honoré’s advice to the first responders was also to the point, “See first. Understand First. Act first.” He said that it is more important to help those in need during times of disaster than to worry about people looting businesses. With regard to a civilian seen carrying a TV out of a store, he said “He ain’t right, but you don’t have a reason to shoot him,” and further explained that some people may be looting simply because they need diapers for their child.
General Honoré also emphasized that municipalities cannot address disasters alone and must proactively coordinate efforts with surrounding government and businesses in their disaster plans. “In a real disaster, you’ll need more than your internal assets – you’ll need help.” He further added that during a time of disaster we must learn to “adapt and overcome.”
Here is a link to a news article featuring Lt. Gen. Russell Honoré: http://www.theledger.com/article/20151113/NEWS/151119701