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Keys residents sign up to be 'civilian second responders' ahead of hurricane season

Recovery is 'going very well in the Keys,' officials say

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MONROE COUNTY, Fla. – Monroe County's administrator and Emergency Operations Center director visited Local 10 Wednesday, and both say the Florida Keys are doing well going into the 2018 hurricane season.

"The recovery is going very well in the Keys," Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi said. "Tax revenues are back up. Most of them are already in the black. Property values are back up. So things are bouncing right back."

The chain of islands is 120 miles long, and Hurricane Irma hit a 20-mile area the hardest. 

Officials said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been very supportive, but now it is time for the county and cities to be reimbursed.

"We have received about $600,000 and we have applied for $34 million," Gastesi said. "So we are hurting and our budget is coming up, so it has been tough."

One of the biggest challenges has always been affordable housing for the Keys workforce, and Irma exacerbated the situation.

"Having trailers and RVs in a world that is only 3 to 5 feet above sea level may not be the best solution," Monroe County EOC Director Martin Senterfitt said. "We have got to build to the proper standards and still allow for workforce housing."

And the private business sector has also been stepping up.

"We call it the military model. You know (when you serve) in the military, when you go to Key West, the military provides housing for you. We are starting to see more and more the private sector doing that," Gastesi said. 

New this year is the Be Part of the Solution campaign. 

"Instead of, 'Where is the government? Why aren't they saving me?' It is, 'Move out of the way. Let me save myself,'" Senterfitt said.

County officials said instead of having evacuated residents feeling frustrated that they can't get back in to the Keys, residents should have the option of being civilian second responders.

"If you are willing to take this training and I am willing to let you back in early, will you do it? I had an absolute 'yes' from the audience," Senterfitt said. 

The idea is well-liked with 1,000 people already interested in signing up. 

DOWNLOAD the Local 10 News Hurricane Survival Guide.