First responders won't go out on calls if winds are too high during Irma

LAKELAND, Fla. (WTSP) -- Donna Tubbs has her bags packed, but she's not going anywhere, even though Polk County is recommending people who live in mobile homes get out.

“All the families around here are planning to stay,” said Tubbs, who lives in a mobile home park in Lakeland.

In case something does go wrong, fire departments are gearing up and expecting to be busy when the storm moves through.

“Our Comm Center will be inundated with a lot more calls than what we're used to,” Assistant Chief Doug Riley of the Lakeland Fire Department said.

The department has to keep safety in mind for its firefighters too, though. Their large trucks are vulnerable in high winds, and they definitely don't want crews outside when there could be debris flying around.

If wind speeds are more than 50 mph, the Lakeland Fire Department will bring all the trucks in and won't respond to 911 calls.

“We will log those calls and we will prioritize them, and once we can go back out we will take the high priority calls first and work our way down,” Riley said.

The same goes for utility workers. Lakeland Electric lineman Chance Grimes said crews are ready for the storm, but if the winds reach speeds of 30 mph, they'll wait for it to pass.

“Patience. If it's as big as they say it could be, it's going to take a little while,” Grimes explained.

Inevitably, the winds will pick up, and people at mobile home parks know first responders won't be able to get to them as quickly.

“A lot of us around here are retired nurses, so we can help out,” Tubbs said.

It's a chance they and anyone who stays put despite voluntary evacuation orders, are taking.
 

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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