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How OCPA Worked For You During Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma left us nearly two months ago, but the storm’s lingering effects are still around. Debris collection sites are closing, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) representatives will soon be gone, and the 2017 hurricane season will be a memory in the distance.

As soon as Irma moved a safe distance away from our area, my office immediately responded. We are responsible for assessing the value of damage to property after a disaster has occurred in Orange County. In this case, it was Hurricane Irma, and we were ready and prepared to assist business and homeowners.

We received thousands of reports of damage, and through those reports, we verified a total of 3,001 properties had damages totaling $51,676,838.

But how do we get there? How does this office determine property damage?

So all estimates that we make are based on structural damage to the property’s improvements. Our appraisers color-code the parcels on the maps based on four categories: Affected, Minor, Major, and Destroyed. The appraisers then bring the maps back to our office for input and analysis by our Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department.

Once we’ve properly inputted all information, it’s then forwarded to the Orange County Emergency Operations Center where it is distributed to local authorities.

We also used technology to communicate with residents before and after the storm. Through social media and e-mail communication, we were able to inform taxpayers about office closures, when and who to call about property damage, relay information about FEMA, and so much more.

Speaking of social media, it has become such a great tool to communicate your message to a specific audience. We’ve been able to successfully utilize Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to get information out to taxpayers in Orange County efficiently and clearly. During the storm, we posted notes on all of our social media platforms reflective of when our office would close, information about damage assessment, debris clean-up, road closures, and etc.

Our office sent preliminary damage assessment numbers to the emergency operations center that triggered the county’s ability to apply for FEMA assistance. Once approved, we posted messages on each of our social media channels to ensure that the public was aware that FEMA assistance was now available.

Seems small but this type of communication matters because we are able to educate the county on how we are able to assist them.

I’m glad that the storm is gone and that Orange County is close to recovered. But I’m also grateful that our office was here to assist those who needed help after the hurricane passed.