The Key West Mystique

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From the Porch | Done with grand jury, got my hurricane emergency responder certificate

By Linda Grist Cunningham, editor and proprietor

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of Key West Island News and KeyWestWatch Media LLC. She and her husband, a park ranger at Fort Zach, live in Key West with their Cat 5s.


Good morning, my friends. Here’s what’s happening From the Porch today:

Got my Community Emergency Response Team certificate!

Got my “go bag” backpack at the ready, complete with hard hat, steel-toed boots, goggles and assorted emergency first aid supplies. Tomorrow when I head to Marathon for my monthly Monroe County Land Use Authority Advisory Committee meeting, I’ll pick up the hurricane re-entry placard. That will get Ranger Ed (he’s certified, too) and me back on the island immediately after an evacuation — assuming we leave in the first place.

Ed and I are among the 250 Keys residents who have completed the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training. Since 1993, FEMA has used the CERT program to train more than 600,000 emergency volunteers in more than 2,800 communities throughout the nation.

Three months after Hurricane Irma in September 2017, Marty Senterfitt, the county’s emergency management director, worked with local volunteers to create the Monroe County Emergency Reserve Corps, which then rolled out the CERT training.

The training is not for the faint of heart. Most of us completed upwards of three days of in-person training and another eight-16 hours of online class work. I’m sure there were a lot more Keys residents who signed up for the training so they could get the re-entry placard — and then backed out when they realized how much work was required.

CERT volunteers assist professional first responders and we’re trained to get out of their ways when they are in charge. But often we can be where they can’t. We can extend a community’s first aid, medical triage, debris removal, safely and wellness checks, take care of neighbors and family and even the pets. (Note to City of Key West: And, I’d be happy to assist with public info efforts.)

Not everyone in the Keys’ decision-making world welcomes CERT. Some are downright hostile with an attitude that clearly says “we don’t want you here; get out and let us do our job.”

That’s short-sighted and displays a lack of understanding about CERT. We’re not a bunch of fly-by-night interlopers. Perhaps some of the City of Key West folks and some of the Monroe County commissioners could learn from CERT’s successes around the country.


Farewell to my Grand Jury service — or lack thereof

Done. No more calling in Wednesdays after 3:30 p.m. No more working my Friday schedules so I wasn’t out of town or otherwise committed. Even Friday happy hours were marked tentative. Since January 1, 2017, I’ve been making that weekly call-in to see if we had to report to the courthouse on the corner of Caroline and Simonton.

Key West Grand Jury 17-01 has been discharged and I am promised by the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Florida that our official discharge papers are on their way. So with the blessing of the grand jury coordinator, whose voice I’ve listened to weekly for almost two years, I have deleted every call-in and every blocked Friday.

And how many times did our pool of jurors meet over those 18-plus months? Not once.

That’s either because things in Key West are pretty quiet at the moment. Or, more likely, the Southern District of Florida has been without a U.S. Attorney for a couple years.

In April 2018, the new U.S. Attorney came aboard. The wheels of appointments turn slowly in today’s politicized world. But I’m betting the 2018 Key West grand jury is going to be a bit busier than we were.

Oh, well, I’m not complaining. I’ve got my Fridays back.

Now then, what next shiny ball I shall chase?



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