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New committee gets Longboaters involved in emergency management

Longboat Key Fire Rescue Chief Paul Dezzi led the first meeting of a resident committee aimed at a more cohesive emergency management effort.

During Tropical Storm Eta in November 2020, several residents were rescued by Longboat Key first responders and taken to shelter due to the storm’s flooding.
During Tropical Storm Eta in November 2020, several residents were rescued by Longboat Key first responders and taken to shelter due to the storm’s flooding.
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Have questions about preparing for emergencies? Don’t know what to do after a storm? A new resident committee might be able to help. 

The Longboat Key emergency management team is working to create a network of full-time residents who can raise concerns and work toward more accountability in the future.

“The goal of this committee is for the town and residents to get together and come up with some gaps that we can prioritize and fix,” Longboat Key Fire Rescue Chief Paul Dezzi said. “Whatever that may be, we have to figure that part out. But it would be them telling us. We don’t know unless you tell us.”

The opportunity will allow more conversations between residents and the emergency management team so the team can get a better understanding of the community’s needs and so residents can find ways to support each other.

About a dozen people met in Town Hall for the group’s first meeting on Jan. 25. Fire Rescue Fire Administration Manager and PIO Tina Adams said about 40 people expressed interest, but not all could attend the first meeting. 

Town Manager Howard Tipton also attended the meeting. 

The main purpose of the first meeting was to introduce the group and talk about the objectives. Dezzi said he hopes the group can enhance communications and create a cohesive group of full-time residents. 

Adams said information about the committee was initially pushed out through property managers and on social media. The goal was to get at least one member of the communities on Longboat Key — not just the homeowners associations, but places like the Village, Buttonwood and Sleepy Lagoon. 

It was also important to get full-time residents. 

“We’re looking for people that are going to be committed, that are here not just in-season but out of season as well,” Adams said. 

Dezzi gave some examples of topics the group could discuss in the future, such as health care services, food assistance, communications, insurance claims, medically dependent programs and adult care. 

He mentioned some of the ways the town is proactive in storm preparations, like Alert Longboat Key and the sandbag operations. Still, hearing residents' issues with things the town already does can help create better systems moving forward.

Also in the first meeting, there was discussion about electric cars became an increasing concern, since water and batteries usually aren’t a good combination. Dezzi said it’s not just cars but electric wheelchairs and electric bikes that are causing issues as well. 

It’s important, then, to make sure those items are safe from water intrusion, according to Dezzi. The best idea would be to move the car off island, but if not, the Publix parking lot is the parking lot with the highest elevation.

Another suggestion brought up by residents was for more aid to be offered after storms, like offering advice about cleanup and offering services. 

Dezzi said that’s something he and Tipton have been talking about and that he is looking forward to the town being more visible after storms, whether that’s offering advice or driving down streets to check on people. 

District 1 Commissioner Gary Coffin also attended the meeting. He said he is focused on attending meetings similar to this one. The work the commission does, he said, is driven largely by residents’ concerns.

“Their concerns are real, and their concerns matter,” Coffin said.

At the Jan. 25 meeting, some north-end residents shared stories about how some neighbors had difficulty preparing for storms on their own and in the future might need help with things like raising furniture off the ground.

Dezzi said this is exactly what this group is intended to do: to share these experiences so the town can learn and so residents can work with this resident committee to find solutions.

The group is open. Adams and Dezzi said the committee could include members of the community and organizations such as HOAs, condominium associations, faith-based organizations and businesses. Board members of HOAs or other associations are also encouraged to attend.

A date hasn't been set for the group's next meeting, but some attendees suggested holding another one in two weeks. For future meetings, interested full-time residents could contact the fire department at 941-316-1944 or email Adams at [email protected].



Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

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