ORLANDO, FL. — Hopelessness turns to hope once travelers from storm-ravaged Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands arrive into Orlando International Airport. Since Hurricane Maria tore through the Caribbean in early September, leaving residents without power, food, water and public services, many have sought refuge in Florida.
“Almost immediately after the Governor designated Orlando International Airport as a relief center, our staff were able to stand up the operation in coordination with Orange County, the City of Orlando and the state’s Department of Emergency Management to address the immediate needs of those citizens evacuating from the U.S. territories impacted by Hurricane Marie,” said Phil Brown, Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Chief Executive Officer.
In times of crisis, it takes a coordinated effort to provide vital and basic assistance to those in need,” said Frank Kruppenbacher, Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Chairman. “As leaders in the community, compassion dictates that we support Governor Scott’s directive and as a result more than 14,000 evacuees have sought information and support since the center opened on October 3rd at Orlando International Airport.”
From early morning until late in the evening, airport staff members and agencies keep the Relief Center operating smoothly. To date, more than 14,000 individuals have been served by the 26 organizations on site. The services being offered include job information; school enrollment; temporary housing information; health support; counseling; computer and phone access; driver’s license and identification services. Food supplies and long term accommodations are not available at the center which is located in the airport’s main terminal.
When passengers arrive in the terminal, signs and personnel direct them to the first level on the A Side of the main terminal, where the center is located. GOAA operations and maintenance personnel created and expanded the functional space to facilitate the nearly 1,000 daily attendees. Set-up includes tables for the participating agencies, privacy screens, computer access, scanners, copiers and a seated waiting area.
Due to the continuing arrival of evacuees, the Disaster Relief Center will remain open at Orlando International Airport until the state establishes more long term accommodations.
Orlando International Airport (MCO) has more than 43 million annual passengers, making it the second busiest airport in Florida and 13th busiest in the U.S. With the state’s most domestic routes and non-stop service to 57 international destinations, MCO provides global access for business and leisure interests. Supporting a diverse Central Florida economy that features world-class tourist attractions, a medical research hub and growing simulation sector, Orlando International Airport generates more than $31 billion in direct and indirect revenue for the regional economy. As the premier gateway to the nation’s most visited destination, MCO strives to value and delight its customers through an airport-wide focus and design concept known as The Orlando Experience®.