GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan 211 workers continue to operate Central Florida’s 211 database and helpline in the wake of Hurricane Ian.
Chad Veeser, emergency management officer for Michigan 211, told News 8 that all seven Michigan branches of United Way have stepped in to help as many workers in Florida struggle to find power or an internet connection.
“A lot of their people are without power. They’re taking care of their own families and their own lives,” he said. “(Michigan 211 operators can) essentially log into their system and to operate both their phone system and their data system on the back end to support people both in response and recovery.”
To date, Michigan 211 has fielded more than 1,600 calls for help in central Florida. Veeser said many of them have dealt with basic needs like food, water, and shelter.
“Some of these calls are harrowing. I know there’s one instance of a mother with six kids who was trying to get to a shelter and it was extraordinarily scary,” he said.
Ian’s death toll continues to rise, with 100 already recorded. Experts predict damages will cost upwards of $30 billion.
“Obviously there are a lot of folks in effected areas that evacuated,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said earlier this week. “Some did shelter in place… We’ve contacted over 20,000 Floridians that filled out a shelter in place on FloridaDisaster.org. Over 10,000 have responded and all 10,000 said they were safe.”
If Michigan was affected by a natural disaster, the United Way of Central Florida would lend a helping hand to their northern friends.
“We have a memorandum of understanding, it is called an MOU, with (central) Florida,” Veeser said. “Purposely because of the cycle of how disasters and emergencies work. Our busy time, when it comes to emergency work, typically is spring and early summer because of storms…. But our slower time is right about now: late summer, fall when hurricane season picks up.”