Fire DepartmentChief: James V. Marenkovic
Phone: 727-893-1062 5314 23rd Avenue South
Gulfport, Florida 33707
Message from the Chief
Welcome to Gulfport Fire Rescue’s web page. Our mission is to provide the best service possible to our community. Our firefighters strive to always do their best and face each day with pride, honor, skill and integrity. We understand that very few professions in the United States allow a total stranger to walk into a home at 3 o’clock in the morning, have instant credibility, and have a parent hand you their sick child. This fact we cannot tarnish. Our goal, therefore, is to always maintain strict professionalism. We recognize each day is a training day. Not only in the service to our community but also to help ensure that “Every firefighter goes home”.
I would like to extend an invitation to you to visit our fire station and speak with our personnel. Please allow us to train you in CPR, provide a free home fire safety inspection, a free home pool safety inspection, provide or install a free smoke detector or any of our other services.
If I can be of any service to you, on behalf of Gulfport Fire Rescue and the City of Gulfport, please do not hesitate to contact me.
James V. Marenkovic,
Fire Department ISO Rating
In 2011, Gulfport Fire & Rescue was awarded an ISO rating of 3. ISO (Insurance Services Office, Inc.) is the leading supplier of statistical, actuarial, and underwriting information for and about the property/casualty insurance industry. The ISO fire insurance ratings for a community are the foundation on which most insurers build their coverage programs. After looking at many factors, ISO assigns a Public Protection Classification from 1 to 10. Class 1 generally represents superior property fire protection, and class 10 indicates that the area’s fire-suppression program doesn’t meet ISO’s minimum criteria. A low ISO fire rating equates to lower insurance premiums citywide. For a one station department, Gulfport’s classification as a 3 is impressive as less than 5% of departments nationwide have classifications on 3 or less.
Essential elements a fire department must have to receive a Class 3 rating:
- Must have pumper capacity to suppress a fire in any building in the community
- Must have a 24 hour central dispatch for contacting firefighters
- Must have fully equipped reserve apparatus
- Annual tests must be conducted on pumper trucks, hoses, and hydrants
- A minimum number of firefighters must be present at emergency scenes
- Firefighter training must greatly exceed minimum standards
- The department and community must have a definitive, reliable, and pressurized water supply
- Must perform annual fire code building inspections
Chief James V. Marenkovic
Chief Marenkovic is currently assigned as the department EMS Coordinator and Infection Control Officer. He holds Florida State Certifications as a Minimum Standards Firefighter, Emergency Medical Technician, Paramedic, and is a CPR Instructor through the American Heart Association. He is a Florida State certified Fire Officer and is also a Florida State Certified Fire Inspector. He actively services on the Pinellas County Fire Chiefs Association, St. Petersburg College Continuing Medical Education Curriculum Committee and Pinellas Advanced Life Support Committee.
Chief Marenkovic began his career as a Paramedic in 1988, has worked for several private ambulance companies, including Sunstar, and has previous experience as a volunteer firefighter in Ohio. Hired as a fulltime Firefighter Paramedic in March 1998 he was promoted to Fire Lieutenant in January 2003. In March 2009 was promoted to the rank of Fire Chief for Gulfport Fire Rescue.
Lieutenant Lawrence Pete Huffman
Lieutenant Pete Huffman is currently assigned as the A-Shift Lieutenant and the department Training & Safety Officer.
Lt. Huffman began his career with the City of Gulfport in 2006. He holds numerous certifications that include FL EMT, Live Fire Instructor II, Fire Service Instructor, EVOC and others. His career started in Pinellas County as a firefighter in 1980. He has worked through the fire service ranks to the position of Assistant Chief/Operations and has obtained his B.S. Degree in Fire Science from Richmond’s University.
Lt. Huffman has been an Instructor with St. Petersburg College Fire Academy for numerous years providing training throughout Pinellas County. He has been recognized as “Firefighter of the Year” in 1992 & 1996 and has also earned national recognition as “Chief Instructor of the Year” for the ROCO Corporation for work performed in Technical Rope Rescue and Industrial Safety Training. He has served as the Technical Rescue Commander for Pinellas County and currently is the Vise-Chair of the Pinellas County Fire Department Training Officers.
Lieutenant Adam Poirrier
Lt. Poirrier began his career with the City of Gulfport in 1999 as a Volunteer Firefighter/EMT before the program was discontinued. He was hired full time in January 2002 and promoted to Lieutenant in 2008. Lt. Poirrier is a certified Paramedic and serves as the department’s EMS officer. He also holds numerous other certifications including Company Officer 1, Pump Operator, Instructor 3, Live Fire Training Instructor 1, Firesafety Inspector, Fire Investigator 2, BLS Instructor, ACLS Instructor, and is an ACE Peer Fitness Trainer. He holds an Associate’s Degree in Emergency Medical Services and a Bachelors’ Degree in Public Safety Administration from St. Petersburg College.
In addition to his duties with the City of Gulfport, Lt. Poirrier serves as an Adjunct Instructor for St. Petersburg College’s Fire Academy program and as a preceptor for their EMS program. (Lt. Poirrier can reached via e-mail at email@example.com)
Lieutenant Erick Fuchs
Lieutenant Erick Fuchs is currently assigned as the C- Shift Lieutenant and the Departments Logistics Officer. Lt. Fuchs began his career with the City of Gulfport in 1999 as a Volunteer Firefighter/EMT. He was hired full time in February 2002 and promoted to Lieutenant in March 2010.
Lt. Fuchs is a certified EMT and serves as the Department’s Logistics Officer is in charge of overseeing the Station Supplies and Facility Maintenance. He also holds certificates as a Pump Operator, Fire Instructor 1, Fire Officer 1 and CPR Instructor with the American Heart Association, and an EMT Preceptor for St. Petersburg College.
Currently, Gulfport Fire Rescue has three shifts of four personnel operating an Advanced Life Support (ALS) Engine. Maintains four firefighters per shift that includes at least one Fire Lieutenant and one Paramedic. Each shift works 24 hours on and 48 hours off. The Fire Chief is responsible for the overall operation of the department. Each of the Fire Lieutenants is responsible for a specific area of supervision and coordination, Training, Safety, and EMS in addition to their shift supervision duties.
GFR operates out of a single fire station and is responsible for the protection of 12,500 residents living within the City of 3 square miles. Additionally, the department participates in a County-wide Automatic Aid agreement with frequent fire responses into St. Petersburg and South Pasadena, and Mutual Aid responses into these areas and the beach communities of St Pete Beach and Treasure Island. Gulfport Fire Rescue responds to nearly 3000 emergency incidents annually.
The fire station houses the living quarters and the administrative area. Originally occupied in 1976, it was renovated and modernized during 2003 with the living quarters expanded and separated from the administrative area.
Gulfport Fire rescue provides Advanced Life Support Emergency Medical Services; Fire Suppression; Fire Inspections based on the NFPA Life Safety Code; Public Education for Fire Safety, Hurricane Preparedness, Pool Safety; CPR training; free Home Fire Safety Surveys; free Smoke Detectors and installation.
The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. Using the training learned in the classroom and during exercises, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. CERT members also are encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community. Gulfport CERT meetings are held every third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. inside the Gulfport Multipurpose Senior Center, 5501 27th Ave. S., Gulfport, FL 33707. For more information, please contact (727) 916-8014.
If a disaster were to hit today, would you be ready? Could you, your family, and property survive? Are you prepared? What would you do? Where would you go? These are the basic questions everyone is faced with when a flood, hurricane, or any other disaster that could strike needs to prepare for.
Everyone should start with the basics:
- Are you informed on current events such as information on possible floods or hurricanes?
- Am I in a flood zone?
- Am I in an evacuation zone?
- Is there a difference between the two types of zones and what are they?
- Do I have an emergency or hurricane kit?
- Am I prepared to evacuate if needed?
- Where will I (and my family) go?
- Do I have a communication plan to let relatives know where I will evacuate to?
- Do I or should I have flood insurance?
Many sources of information exist that can be tapped into to answer these questions. Some of the best sites include:
- www.fema.gov – the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, for preparation, planning, communication plans, emergency or hurricane kits, mitigation, and flood insurance.
- www.floridadisaster.org – the Florida Division of Emergency Management for family, home and business disaster mitigation preparation.
- www.nhc.noaa.gov – the National Hurricane Center for tropical weather information.
- www.noaa.gov – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for national and local weather alerts.
- www.floodsmart.gov – for information regarding flood insurance.
- www.pinellascounty.org – for evacuation level maps.
- www.ready.gov – for information regarding hurricane preparations.
- www.flash.org – the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes for information regarding strengthening homes and safeguarding families.
The first action that everyone should take is to prepare and have a hurricane or disaster kit on hand. To find out what hurricane or disaster kit is and what goes into a kit besides food and water, check out FEMA at www.fema.gov , the National Hurricane Center at www.nhc.noaa.gov , or the Pinellas County Emergency Management Department at www.pinellascounty.org. Also, these sites and the State at www.floridadisaster.org and FLASH at www.flash.org can assist in helping to prepare your home to survive a hurricane. Another great site to help you, your family, and home prepare for a storm is FEMA’s “Ready” site, www.ready.gov.
Secondly, everyone should prepare their home to withstand the possible damaging effects from a hurricane. High winds and flood waters are the two most common damaging effects from hurricane. [Link – Against The Wind] The same sites that provide information on hurricane or disaster kits have information on how to protect your house and yard, and businesses from hurricanes.
Third, everyone should know if they are in a flood zone and an evacuation zone. This information will help determine when and if you have to evacuate. A flood zone is different from an evacuation zone. Each is based on different information and is used for different purposes. A flood zone map is based on rising water created by a storm. This map is used to for flood insurance purposes. You can view the flood maps at the Library or at the Community Development Department or call (727) 893-1063 for flood map information. An evacuation map is based on flooding caused by rising water and wind driven waters. This type of flooding is more severe because it takes into account waves created by the storm which are on top of the rising flood waters. Evacuation maps are based on storm surge maps. Evacuation maps have increasing levels of evacuation based on the intensity and prediction of the storm. The evacuation levels range from “A” to “E” with “A” being the first level and “E” being the highest level of evacuation. Usually the “A” levels are those areas closest to bodies of water that are the sources of flooding. Pinellas County Emergency Management, www.pinellascounty.org, has evacuation information and can inform you of your evacuation level.
Next, if you are in an evacuation zone, or decide to evacuate, where will you go? Where will you stay? You should basically know what you will do and where you will go at the beginning of the Hurricane Season. Then when the hurricane comes, you’ll be better prepared to evacuate. Usually the decision to evacuate depends upon the strength, position, and prediction of the major storm event. Based on the available information, a voluntary or mandatory evacuation is called. Then the evacuation process by an individual begins. Evacuation can be locally, like to a friend or relative’s home, or a hotel within the county. Many may evacuate to locations out of the county. Public shelters should be places of last resort to evacuate. If you evacuate, don’t forget to take your hurricane kit and let relatives know where you are evacuating to. Also be sure to include your pet(s) in your evacuation plans.
After preparing yourself, your family, and your home from disasters like floods and hurricanes, what is your City doing to prepare and mitigate from disasters?
Presently, the City of Gulfport adopts the countywide Local Mitigation Strategy (LMS) Plan for disaster and floodplain management planning. In addition to the flood mitigation, this Plan takes a countywide approach to reducing the impacts to residents from multiple types of natural and man-made hazards. Within the LMS document, the City has Appendix 15 that focuses on floodplain management that investigates specific areas subject to flooding, flood hazards, to assess problems, determine goals to reduce hazards from flooding, develop possible activities to implement, develop an appropriate action plan, and initiate an implementation plan. Monitoring and evaluating the LMS specific to Gulfport occurs annually. An annual evaluation and report is presented to City Council and made available for review at the Gulfport Public Library.
Through flood mitigation planning, the City has made progress on projects designed to reduce flood damage. We have investigated the purchase of land that is low-lying and flood prone. The Public Works Department continues to improve the storm drainage system and maintenance procedures. The Building Division continues to update and enforce our floodplain and building codes. We coordinate with other local government agencies on flood projects, civil emergencies, and flood warning programs, including evacuations.
You can find a variety of hazard mitigation information in the topics below. The following nine flood-related topics and flood hazard map are provided for information, protection, and action against flooding, and exposure or risk to flooding and flood hazards. We encourage everyone to read and do what they can to protect themselves and their property.
OUR FLOOD HAZARD
The City of Gulfport is located on the shores of Boca Ciega Bay which is a major source of flooding in the City. The upland areas of Gulfport are characterized by flat terrain that slopes from an elevation of sea level to three feet in various locations along the waterfront to nearly forty feet in the northeast area of the City. The low lying and flat areas throughout the City are subject to freshwater flooding from street and yard runoff. Approximately one-third of the City is located within the 100-year floodplain mapped and adopted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Since all of the high density condominiums within the City are located in the 100-year floodplain, most of Gulfport’s population is vulnerable and at risk of flooding. Therefore, being prepared for a storm or flooding conditions, which includes your residence, is vitally important. The flood hazard map, or Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM), included below was revised by FEMA and adopted by the City in 2003. The 100-year floodplain is where properties may experience flooding during 100-year and 500-year flood events and other major storms. Although the FIRM has a 2003 date, this is the most up-to-date flood map.
Despite the significant improvements in Gulfport’s storm drainage systems throughout the city, freshwater flooding problems due to rainfall are still evident in the low lying sections of town. Causes contributing to the flooding include stormwater runoff created by an inadequate storm sewer system, and low ground elevations resulting in salt water flooding backing up through the storm sewer system from high tides of Boca Ciega Bay. Many times, rain will saturate the ground to a point where the ground will no longer absorb the water. With nowhere to go, the water will then add to the street, sidewalk and driveway runoff. Ponding of the water will begin to grow. Finally, the water will flood yards, encroach toward homes. If the rainfall is heavy or falls over a long period of time, the flood waters will enter homes.
The FIRM’s that show local flood hazard areas within the City can be viewed at the Gulfport Municipal Library and at the Community Development Department in the City Hall Complex. Also, the Community Development Department has historic and current Flood Insurance Rate Maps for viewing and for map information purposes.
FLOOD WARNING SYSTEM
The flood warning system that the City participates in is in coordination with the Pinellas County Disaster Committee (DAC) and the Pinellas County Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Activities, including flood and storm warnings, evacuation, evacuation shelters, and recovery operations after the storm, are coordinated countywide but the announcements are made through the City and local media for Gulfport residents.
Flood watches (when conditions favor flooding) and flood warnings (when a flood is eminent) will be issued by the National Weather Service and Pinellas County through local television and radio stations. Any emergency actions will be determined by the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners upon input from the DAC. The County EOC then issues hazard information to local radio and television stations for emergency broadcasts. Local television stations within the Tampa Bay area that broadcast the emergency information, along with their internet websites, include:
Local radio stations include:
AM & FM
The City of Gulfport depends upon the National Weather Service (NWS) for flood threat recognition. The NWS (Ruskin, Florida) issues flood advisories for storm surges and when expected rainfall could overflow drainage systems causing localized flooding due to ponding of flood waters. The emergency alert system has designated WMTX-FM 100.7 as the primary disaster information channel and WWRM-FM 94.9 as the secondary disaster information channel for this area. Pinellas County officials have designated WEOC–AM 940 as the primary station for county emergency information. Also, the NWS will broadcast regularly updated information on its special FM high-band frequency of 162.55 megahertz. Weather and storm information is also available on the City’s government access channel, GTV-Channel 615, and on the official website of the City of Gulfport at www.mygulfport.us, which provides links with the Pinellas County Emergency Operations Center (phone (727) 464-3800), the National Weather Service, the National Hurricane Center, and other emergency services. Additional websites with emergency information are: www.weather.com ; www.nws.noaa.gov ; and www.fema.gov .
The City of Gulfport has its own emergency preparedness actions that go into effect for a variety of disasters, including flooding. These actions depend upon the severity and location of the disaster. Gulfport personnel will carry out appropriate actions based on current or predicted conditions or information released by the County EOC or news media. In addition to the local media releasing flood information and warnings, Gulfport residents in flood prone areas may be warned of an actual emergency condition, such as street flooding and area flooding through fire and police mobile units. When these warnings are sounded, all residents should follow the evacuation orders and the directions of the police and fire units. Delaying an evacuation order could put you in a situation where rescue units may not be able to assist you. Even though you could call for assistance, weather conditions, such as high winds or flood waters, may prevent rescue units from responding to your call. Therefore, it is very important for you to be prepared at all times, especially during hurricane season. Have your hurricane kit ready, know where you will evacuate to, and let someone such as a relative who lives outside of Pinellas County or even the State of Florida, know where you’ll be. If you choose to leave the County, know the major evacuation routes.
The designated evacuation route to leave Pinellas County for the City of Gulfport is to travel eastward on Gulfport Boulevard South/22 Avenue South to I-275. Head north on I-275, crossing Tampa Bay on the Howard Franklin Bridge, and continue either northward on I-275/I-75 or eastward on I-4 to leave the region. An alternative route is to travel north on 49th Street South to 1st Avenue South. Turn right on 1st Avenue South and travel eastward to 20th Street South. Turn left and drive north to Interstate I-275. Continue either northward on I-275/I-75 or eastward on I-4 to leave the region.
The following maps are the evacuation routes for Pinellas County. The first map illustrates the evacuation routes for south Pinellas County. The second map illustrates the regional evacuation routes which can assist in evacuations leaving Pinellas County. The map includes routes through Pasco and Hillsborough Counties.
FLOOD SAFETY TIPS
The following tips are prepared for everyone to follow for when flooding conditions occur. If you are prepared prior to a flooding event, your personal losses and property losses will be minimized.
- Prepare your hurricane kit and have supplies on hand for 5 to 7 days since assistance may not be available immediately following the storm event.
- Know your evacuation zone and flood zone because both zones are not the same. Know the flood warning procedures. Stay tuned to local radio and television stations for evacuation information. Evacuate the flood hazard area in times of impending flood or when advised to do so through local news casts, or by the Gulfport police or fire department in your neighborhood broadcasting by loud speaker, to avoid putting rescue workers at risk.
- Do not attempt to cross flowing flood waters where the water is above your knees. Currents can be deceptive; six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet. Drowning is the number one cause of flood deaths. Use a pole or stick to determine depth if you walk in standing water.
- Keep children away from flood water, ditches, culverts, and storm drains. Currents can be very strong and flood waters can contain contaminants hazardous to humans.
- Do not drive through flooded areas, especially if you do not know how deep the water is. If your vehicle stalls in high water, abandon it immediately and seek high ground. Vehicles can and will float. Currents can whisk vehicles away. Eventually, a floating vehicle will come to rest and sink.
- Use caution walking inside a flooded structure. During and after a flood, the ground and floors are covered with debris such as broken glass or nails. Mud, silt or sand can be very slippery. Animals such as rodents, insects and snakes may have been flooded out of their homes and may seek shelter in yours. Use a pole or stick to poke or overturn things to scare away small animals.
- Turn off utility services. Cut off all electrical circuits at the fuse panel or disconnect switch. If this is not possible, turn off or disconnect all electrical appliances. Shut off the water service and gas valves in your home. Use a flashlight to inspect damage. Do not smoke or use matches, flames, lanterns, or candles unless you know the gas has been shut off and the area has been well ventilated.
Standard homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover losses due to floods. Gulfport, however, is a participant in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which makes all of its property owners regardless of location in the City (including properties that have not been flooded), business owners, condominium owners, and renters eligible to obtain federally-backed flood insurance. Flood insurance covering the building and contents is available to any owner of insurable property (a building and its contents) within the City through their home insurance agent. Tenants may also insure their personal property against flood loss through an insurance agent. For further information see www.FloodSmart.gov, www.fema.gov/business/nfip/, or Answers To Questions About Substantially Damged Bldgs FEMA 213.
Actual costs for flood insurance will vary depending upon location of the house or business in the flood zone depicted on the Flood Insurance Rate Map, the type of construction, age of the house or structure, amount of coverage, and degree of flood hazard or risk. We urge persons who live in or own property in flood hazard areas to purchase flood insurance to protect themselves from losses due to flooding. Flood insurance is required in most instances, such as the purchase of a home, with a federally backed mortgage. Lenders who issue federally backed mortgages are required to determine if a structure is within the 100-year floodplain. If so, the lender will require the purchaser to obtain flood insurance.
Don’t wait for a disaster to happen! Please don’t delay if you are considering flood insurance. Flood policies have a 30 day wait period before they are effective after the flood insurance policy is purchased. If you have or are considering flood insurance, check out the amount of coverage and make sure you have structure and contents coverage to ensure the best coverage for your situation. Flooding, which has occurred in Gulfport, can include damages to your structure and contents within your structure (which may be more than the structure itself) as well. Flood insurance covers all surface floods.
PROPERTY PROTECTION MEASURES
Several different methods are available to protect your home or business’ building from flood damage. Elevating or relocating a building will protect it from flood waters. Wet and dry floodproofing can help also. Additionally, berms, levees, and floodwalls can offer some protection as well. These methods and other property protection methods can be found in the following publications:
and Retrofitting and Flood Mitigation in Florida.
Electrical panel boxes, furnaces, water heaters, washers/dryers, and furniture should be elevated or relocated to a location less likely to be flooded. If a flood is coming, you should shut off the gas and electricity and move valuable contents to a higher location.
Depending upon your house construction or your ability to modify your house, flood drains may be installed, backflow preventers for water lines may be installed, interior flood walls can be placed around utilities, and plugs or standpipes can be installed to prevent sewer back ups. Deeper sewer back up problems can be solved with overhead sewers, gate valves, or backup valves.
Other approaches involve making your walls waterproof by adhering waterproof materials and waterproof paints. Another method places watertight closures over doorways and low windows. Also, you can keep materials like sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting, and lumber for emergency waterproofing. The City does have a sand bag program and issues sand bags during an approaching storm. These are distributed at City Hall. Please call the Public Works Department at (727) 893-1089 for further information.
Another action to help minimize the amount of damage caused by flood water is to regrade your lot or build a small flood wall or earthen berm. Please contact the Building Division at (727) 893-1020 prior to regrading for permit information. Shuttering your windows and installing reinforced exterior doors and garage doors will protect your home against high winds.
Many of these approaches are called floodproofing or retrofitting. More information is available at the Gulfport Municipal Library. The City’s Building Division can provide technical assistance as well as make site visits to discuss specific flooding issues and possible solutions. Financial assistance for flood protection or mitigation may be available from federal agencies in the form of loans, grants, or as part of your flood insurance policy.
FLOODPLAIN DEVELOPMENT PERMIT REQUIREMENTS
All structures under construction within the City of Gulfport require building permits. Further, the City has adopted as part of its zoning ordinances, regulations on development, construction, and reconstruction in floodplains. The purpose of these regulations is to control the alteration of natural runoffs and storm runoff channels; prevent or regulate construction of flood barriers which divert flood waters or which may increase flood hazards in other areas; restrict or prohibit uses resulting in increased damage by erosion, flood velocities or flood heights; and to control filling, grading or other development that may increase flood damages. The City’s floodplain management codes are found in Chapter 10.5, Flood Damage Prevention, in the Charter Chapter 10.
All new construction and substantial improvements of existing structures must follow regulations specific to flood zone construction. Structures are permitted within flood zones provided they meet or exceed the base flood level elevation of the flood zone as identified on the FIRM. Elevation Certificates are required for construction within the 100-year flood zone as indicated by the Special Flood Hazard Areas on the FIRM’s. Contact the Gulfport Building Division for information regarding Elevation Certificates [Elevation Certificate PDF Elevation Certificate Template MS Word Elevation Certificate Instructions PDF Elevation Certificate Instructions MS Word ]. Existing Elevation Certificates for homes can be viewed at the Building Division or click on Gulfport Flood Certificates.
If any work is to be performed, especially in the designated flood hazard areas, please contact the Building Division. Report any illegal floodplain development to the Building Division. Reporting and contacting the Building Division at 5330-23rd Avenue South, (727) 893-1020, prior to performing work is necessary as the regulations are extensive as permits are required for construction or improvements in the flood zones. Further information can be obtained at the Building Division’s website along with permit forms and regulations.
If you have flooding problems, you can request a site visit related to drainage, site improvements, flood mitigation, and retrofitting techniques. City staff has qualified personnel in the Building Division of the Community Development Department to assist homeowners with site visits or plans review.
SUBSTANTIAL IMPROVEMENT REQUIREMENT
A substantial improvement to a structure is any rehabilitation, addition or other improvement of a building where the cost of the improvement equals or exceeds 50% of the market value of the building before the start of the construction. Substantial improvements must meet the same construction requirements as a new building including lowest living floor elevation requirements. Substantially damaged structures must be brought up to the same standards as new construction. Substantial improvements, however, do not include improvements to a building to correct existing health or sanitary code violations as identified by the City to ensure safe living conditions. For more information, click on the following for a publication regarding substantial damage/improvements. Answers To Questions About Substantially Damged Bldgs FEMA 213
As a participant in the National Flood Insurance Program, the City of Gulfport enforces the substantial improvement requirement. The City’s Building Division can inform and answer questions about the requirement and all local procedures for enforcing it. City personnel can review and discuss your building plans as they relate to flood zones, flood mitigation, building requirements, and zoning requirements. Additionally, the City’s Building Division can make site visits to discuss specific flooding issues and possible solutions.
DRAINAGE SYSTEM MAINTENANCE
The City of Gulfport has a storm drainage system consisting of both open and closed segments. The open sections are the drainage swales, ponds and small lakes. The closed sections are comprised of storm water inlets and piping which carry water from streets to drainage features or areas that collect runoff and eventually outfall to Boca Ciega Bay.
Maintenance of these systems is very important. Debris in the swales, catch basins and pipes obstructs the flow of water that could possibly cause overflowing stormwater to flood into roads and yards. This partial or complete filling in of these storm sewer systems reduces the flood flow capacity that contributes to the flooding of streets and yards. Maintenance of these systems is important to maintain a high flood flow capacity. To achieve this, the City’s Public Works Department has formalized its storm sewer system maintenance procedures. City personnel clear and perform other maintenance work on the system at least two times per year. Some locations are maintained four times per year. Work is also performed on an emergency basis in problematic areas as needed or called in by residents.
In addition to City performed maintenance, residents can help perform routine maintenance on ditches located on right-of-ways along the sides or the rear of their properties such as removal of high weeds, litter, debris or other items considered a nuisance. Also, residents should take care of their properties so that water cannot become stagnant which would create breeding areas for mosquitoes.
Several of the City’s efforts depend upon your cooperation and assistance. You can help by:
- Always check with the Building Division before you build on, alter, regrade, or fill your property. Permits are needed to ensure projects do not cause problems, such as flooding onto other properties.
- Do not dump or throw anything into the ditches or ponds. Dumping in our ditches and ponds is a code violation. Even grass clippings and branches can accumulate and plug channels, inlets and storm sewer pipes. A plugged channel cannot carry water and when it rains the water has to go somewhere. When storm runoff has nowhere to go, the water will begin to flood the streets and yards, and possibly homes. Every piece of trash can contribute to flooding.
- If your property is next to a ditch or pond, please do your part and keep the banks clear of brush and debris.
- If you see building or filling or grading without a City permit sign posted, contact the Building Division at (727) 893-1020.
- Report illegal dumping by contacting Code Enforcement at (727) 893-1061.
- If you see a storm sewer catch basin that is slow to drain or does not drain runoff, or debris in ditches or ponds, contact the Public Works Department at (727) 893-1089.
Drainage maintenance is enforceable under the City’s Code of Ordinances, Chapter 12, Health and Sanitation, Article I, Nuisances. Overgrowth, trash, illegal dumping, habitat for rodents and other animals, and offensive smells created as a result of other nuisance conditions should be reported to Code Enforcement. Some of these nuisances can affect the performance of the drainage system and its ability to properly drain storm runoff water. Chapter 12 specifically addresses nuisances and drainage is found on this link Charter Chapter 12.
NATURAL AND BENEFICIAL FUNCTIONS OF THE GULFPORT FLOODPLAIN
Gulfport’s floodplain plays an important role during those times when the low lying areas of the city are covered by water during a flood. The City’s floodplain carries and stores flood waters, and its capacity to do that protects human life and property from flood damage. The Gulfport floodplain contains natural and developed areas that have benefits for all of us, including:
- Habitat for Plants and Animals. Mangroves, trees and other vegetative growth found along the natural shoreline within Clam Bayou and the Pasadena Yacht and Country Club provide important resting, feeding, and nesting areas for many waterfowl species. These areas have a natural biological diversity and are productive for birds, fish, and other wildlife. The mangroves provide an ecosystem that captures nutrients and plant debris and serve as prime nurseries for fish, shrimp, crabs, and waterfowl. As an added bonus, the roots protect the shorelines from wind and wave erosion.
- Water Quality. Vegetation and soils found within our City’s floodplain serve as water filters, intercepting surface water runoff before reaching Boca Ciega Bay. This process aids in the removal of excess nutrients, pollutants, and sediments from the water. In turn, the need for costly clean up from pollutants and sediment removal is reduced. Within the developed areas of the floodplain, stormwater management is provided by pipes and swales leading to detention/retention ponds that result in improved water quality entering Boca Ciega Bay. The lake at the Ted Phillips Wood-Ibis Park is an excellent example of a project that is improving water quality.
Ted Phillips Wood-Ibis Park is a stormwater management system designed to treat runoff from nearly 62 urban acres. Previously, the runoff historically exceeded the existing capacity causing flooding and untreated discharge at the Municipal Beach. This project diverts the runoff from an area that is bordered by Gulfport Boulevard to the north, Beach Boulevard South to the east, 58th Street South on the west, and 28th Avenue South on the south. The storm sewer system was designed for a 10-year frequency while the treatment (pond) was designed for the 25-year frequency storm. The method of treatment includes settlement and biological assimilation. Recreational opportunities include a walking trail, benches, and wildlife observation.
- Retention and Creation of Greenspace. The City of Gulfport has preserved and created some exciting, unique, and beautiful greenspaces within its floodplain. Clam Bayou, Clam Bayou Nature Park, Gulfport Veteran’s Memorial Park, the Municipal Beach, and Wood-Ibis Park are all examples of green spaces in floodplain areas that serve multiple uses and purposes. Flood hazard retention, wetland protection, fish and wildlife habitat improvement, outdoor education, and recreational opportunities are some of the benefits of these greenspace parks.
The City encourages all of its residents to visit these parks. Note the values and benefits provided in addition to enjoying the beautiful aesthetics of Boca Ciega Bay and the parks themselves. The City has provided protection to these greenspaces within the flood zone for everyone to enjoy.
Gulfport’s natural and greenspaces within the City are protected through the enforcement of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Map, and the Zoning Code and Map. Land use designations of Preservation or Recreation/Open Space will prevent residential or commercial uses from occurring on the site. Clam Bayou is designated as Preservation. Clam Bayou Nature Park and the Ted Phillips Wood-Ibis Park are designated as Recreation/Open Space. Wetlands found within the Pasadena Yacht and Country Club are designated as Preservation. Many goals and objectives within the Coastal Management and Conservation Element protect natural areas, wetlands, greenspaces, and the elements that create natural and beneficial functions of the City’s floodplain. Within those goals and objectives, the City has a policy that protects the Right-Of-Way areas that end at the shoreline of Boca Ciega Bay for public access. For land use information, please click on the following. [Comp Plan Excerpt Link]
Likewise, the City Zoning Codes includes an Open Space designation category that is used to preserve green space located in the floodplain. Clam Bayou, Clam Bayou Nature Park, and Ted Phillips Wood-Ibis Park is designated Open Space. The Municipal Beach is protected in the Community Redevelopment District’s (land use designation) and Waterfront Redevelopment District’s (zoning designation) Waterfront Area Redevelopment Plan through the designation of Recreation/Open Space. This Plan guides development and preservation within the District. The following link is an excerpt from the Waterfront Area Redevelopment Plan and zoning codes. [WRD Plan and Zoning Code Excerpts Link]
CITY OF GULFPORT HISTORICAL STORM HISTORY
For the past several decades Gulfport has been spared a direct hit from a hurricane. Although several hurricanes have brushed by this area within the past 60 years, Pinellas County and the City have not experienced the devastating winds, high storm surge, erosion, and flooding caused by a landfalling hurricane for years.
Historically, the last hurricane to make landfall in the Tampa Bay area occurred in October 25-26, 1921. The sixth hurricane of that year began in the western Caribbean, moved through the straits between Mexico and Cuba, and entered the Gulf of Mexico. As the hurricane traveled north, it curved to the east, making landfall in the area of north Pinellas County/south Pasco County as a Category 3 hurricane. Locally, the hurricane generated winds of upwards of 120 mph. The hurricane then cut across to the east coast and exited the State of Florida in the vicinity of New Smyrna Beach.
In 1921, Gulfport, like most of Pinellas County, was sparsely populated. Therefore, property damages and losses of life were relatively low compared to today’s development patterns. Gulfport residents who lived through this intense hurricane reported the exceptional high winds and the high storm surge that flooded most of Gulfport from the shores of Boca Ciega Bay to what is now Gulfport Boulevard. As the hurricane passed, the hurricane force winds shifted and blew the water out of Tampa Bay and Boca Ciega Bay leaving much of the bottom of both Bays exposed.
The historical photographs that you have seen throughout this webpage were taken during Hurricane Elena, August 30 – September 4, 1985. Hurricane Elena threatened Florida’s west coast on Labor Day weekend as Elena’s path came to approximately 80 miles to the northwest of the Tampa Bay area. Locally, Elena had 40 to 50 mph sustained winds that caused tides six and seven feet above normal. The high tides and heavy wave action caused moderate to severe beach erosion, flooding, and damage to seawalls along the beach areas from Sarasota northward to Clearwater Beach. Gulfport’s Municipal Beach also experienced erosion. Evacuation orders were given in Pinellas County that included parts of Gulfport. The Gulfport Fire Department, in a coordinated effort, assisted 112 evacuees and answered 63 citizen calls. Rainfall amount recorded in Gulfport totaled 5.35 inches. Finally, the hurricane made a loop off Cedar Key and then headed northwest making landfall near Biloxi, Mississippi.
In more recent times, three storm events have affected the City of Gulfport. Each created flooding situations within the City. March 13, 1993 saw the “No Name Storm” which was referred to as the “Storm of the Century” by the media. Two inches of rain and a strong tidal surge of nearly 5.5 feet above mean sea level caused heavy damage, erosion, and significant coastal flooding. Major wind damage was caused by sustained winds of over 40 miles per hour and gusts over 80 mph. The high winds caused long term power outages.
During October 6-8, 1996, Tropical Storm Josephine unleashed heavy rains, high winds, and high tides in Pinellas County even though the eye was nearly 150 miles north of Gulfport. Rainfall combined with high tides up to 6.3 feet above normal caused flooding within the city’s floodplain. The City of Gulfport recorded over three inches of rain from this storm. Then, during September 14-18, 2000, Hurricane Gordon peaked on the 17th about 165 miles southwest of Tampa, Florida. It continued to track northeastward and eventually made landfall just northwest of Cedar Key, Florida on September 18th, as a tropical storm with 55 knot winds. Gordon dumped nearly four inches of rain as it passed Gulfport. Although not directly impacted from a major hurricane since 1921, Gulfport has been affected by passing tropical storms and minor hurricanes. With these storms, Gulfport has experienced high tides and limited storm surges, heavy rains, and some high winds. Effects from the passing storms have caused some damages, but not to the extent of what could be flooded and damaged from a major hurricane. Gulfport and the Tampa Bay area have been very lucky by not experiencing a major hurricane since 1921. However, this does not mean that our luck will continue. It’s not a matter of IF we’ll get hit with a major hurricane, but a matter of WHEN. Therefore, it’s everyone’s responsibility to be prepared every hurricane season. So what can you do to prepare?
Many options are available for all residents to help minimize damages from hurricanes and to prevent flooding and flood damage. You can start by being an informed resident by reading and reviewing this webpage and the links throughout. Please keeping a copy of the brochure sent in your utility bill. You can also keep and read the newsletter sent out to all floodplain residents in the City. Create and keep a hurricane kit. Know your flood zone and hurricane evacuation zone. Determine if you are going hunker down or evacuate. Depending upon your location and condition of your house, you can be a Host Home or evacuate to one, evacuate somewhere safe within the county, or leave the area. If you know where you’ll be evacuating to, let relatives who do not live in this area know where you’ll be. A public shelter should be the place of last resort to evacuate to.
Visit our Municipal Library located at 5501 – 28th Avenue South for hurricane and flood related information that is available for your review. FEMA’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps are available for review at the Library or at the Community Development Department. The City’s Community Development Department staff can determine if you live in, or own property in a flood hazard zone. City Building Division staff can also discuss, or make site visits, to discuss specific floodproofing options and review flood protection measures. Additionally, the Building Division has Elevation Certificates on file and can discuss existing Elevation Certificates or answer any questions or concerns about filling one out. If you have any questions on flood zones, or any other information provided in this webpage, please contact the Community Development Department at 893-1000. Further information can be found on the following links:
City of Gulfport Flood Protection Newsletter City of Gulfport Flood Elevation Certificates 2010 Contact Info Flyer Avoiding Flood Damage Avoiding Hurricane Damage Avoiding Wind Damage Flood Preparation Brochure Freeboard Flood Insurance Rates 2010 Grab And Go: Packing An Emergency Preparedness Kit Is Easy – And Essential Hurricane Season Fact Sheet 2007 Insurance Claim Brochure Mandatory Purchase of Flood Insurance Requirement NFIP Flood Insurance Claims Handbook NFIP Summary of Coverage Pinellas County Local Government Flood Information Guide Red Cross-Hurricane Floods Taking Shelter From The Storm FEMA 320 Why You Need Flood Insurance Brochure
Web Links for Further Information Regarding
Flood Mitigation, Flood Insurance, and Flood/Disaster-Related Issues
|American Red Cross||American Red Cross Safe and Well Website|
|Hurricane and Flood Mitigation||www.fema.gov|
|Florida Community Emergency Response Team||www.floridacert.org/index.htm|
|Florida Department of Financial Services||www.fldfs.com|
|Florida Office of Insurance Regulation for Hurricane (assistance) Updates||www.fldfs.com/companies/|
Fun Stuff for Children!
|USFA for Kids||http://www.usfa.fema.gov/kids/flash.shtm|
|FEMA Comic Strips||http://www.ready.gov/fun-games/comic-strips|
To create an Emergency Supply Kit, go to the FEMA links above or http://www.ready.gov/build-kit-kids.
For Further Flood and Hurricane Information
|Pinellas County Emergency Management||www.pinellascounty.org/emergency (727) 464-3800|
|Pinellas County Information||Residents are encouraged to call (727) 464-4333 for information throughout a storm threat.|
|City of Gulfport||Watch GTV615, the City’s government cable access channel 615. Also Gulfport’s webstream at www.mygulfport.us/GTV615/Live_Webstream.htm|
|City of Gulfport Citizen Call Center||The Citizen Call Center is only activated during a storm threat. (727) 893-1000|
|Forecast and Weather Information||National Hurricane Center|
|Central Florida Hurricane Center|
|NWS Tampabay area radar|
|Local Tide Chart|
|Buoy reports from NOAA|
|Bay News 9 Hurricane Information Page|
|How a Hurricane destroys a home|