When a hurricane has set its sights on Longboat Key and is rapidly approaching, there should be no thoughts about what to do once an evacuation order is issued for the island.
“Get out of town,” said Richard A. Dickerson, the town’s new fire chief. Dickerson served as the incident commander for Sanibel and Captiva islands during Hurricanes Charley in 2004 and Wilma in 2005.
Dickerson, 49, said he saw too many people not take heed when evacuation orders were issued.
And, he said the second most important thing to do, especially for seasonal residents, is to make sure your insurance information is up-to-date and that someone has been appointed to oversee your home and brace it for a storm.
“There were way too many homes in Sanibel that were left unattended, which led to unnecessary damage,” Dickerson said.
Dickerson said Hurricane Charley was so tightly wound, or compact, that the hurricane didn’t create much storm surge.
But the new fire chief believes that Longboat Key can’t hope for a lucky break.
“A slow-moving storm could be extremely deadly for Longboat Key,” said Dickerson, who doesn’t want residents to be complacent because a storm hasn’t impacted the island for years.
Town Manager Bruce St. Denis appointed the former Sanibel Fire Rescue Chief to replace Longboat Key Fire Rescue Chief Julias Halas, who takes over as director of the state fire marshal’s office May 1.
“He has a lot of experience,” said St. Denis about Dickerson. “He is absolutely the guy to replace Fire Chief Julius Halas.”
Dickerson, who served as Sanibel’s fire chief from 2000 to 2007, most recently served as a shift leader, emergency-management coordinator and infections-control officer for the Captiva Island Fire District.
The starting salary for Dickerson will be $92,393.60, compared to the $107,681.60 salary that Halas currently receives for the position. Dickerson earned a salary of $106,000 per year as Sanibel’s fire chief.
Dickerson, whose first official day is April 27, has 27 years of public-safety experience, beginning as a paramedic in Lee County before moving on to Sanibel as a paramedic in 1979 and, later, fire chief.
His tenure Sanibel’s fire chief is similar to his new Longboat Key post. Dickerson oversaw a staff of 28 employees on the slightly smaller island. Dickerson now oversees a staff of 33 employees on Longboat Key.
At the Thursday, April 16 Town Commission regular workshop, Dickerson was introduced to the commission and pledged his commitment to the town.
Dickerson took a moment at the podium to congratulate Halas on his recent promotion and explain his one tie to Longboat Key.
“Hurricane Charley was supposed to hit here, I do remember that,” Dickerson said. “But it made a right turn right into my community.”
Dickerson said he is looking forward to working with the town’s police officers and firefighters, as well as forming close relationships with other departments.
Dickerson’s wife, Kim, is the deputy chief of the Lee County emergency-medical services and is responsible for and oversees all facets of the county’s 911 response and inter-facility operations.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].