IEM Vice President Bryan Koon Takes on Key Role in Rebuild 850’s Mission to Help the Florida Panhandle Recover

Three months to the day after Hurricane Michael devasted northwest Florida, Rebuild 850 held a media conference call about the volunteer group’s efforts to galvanize the recovery effort. Rebuild 850’s leadership, former Florida House speakers Allan Bense and Will Weatherford, used the occasion to announce a new member of the team. Bryan Koon was named Director of Damage Assessment for the group.

Koon served for six years as director of the state’s Division of Emergency Management and is now Vice President of International Homeland Security and Emergency Management at IEM, an emergency management and disaster recovery consulting firm. “Having served the people of Florida in that position for six years, his experiences and insights will be invaluable in his new role as REBUILD 850’s Director of Damage Assessment,” stated Bense.

Bense and Weatherford launched Rebuild 850 with a diverse group of dedicated partner organizations last November. Its mission is keeping the continuing needs of communities in Florida’s Panhandle “front and center.” The group issued a challenge for individuals, businesses, and organizations to donate, volunteer, visit, and invest to help the region. Bense kicked off the effort by contributing $25,000 to the new initiative, and so far, the initiative has raised $400,000.

Koon drew on his experience leading the state’s disaster recovery efforts for such major events as Hurricanes Hermine, Matthew, and Irma to describe the magnitude of this disaster. “The residents of Northwest Florida never before had seen devastation like what Michael wrought. Koon said that only by Floridians coming together and supporting the Panhandle through charitable groups like Rebuild 850, can the recovery be successful. Government funding is only part of the solution,” Koon said. “We must continue to work … to donate, volunteer, visit and invest.”  

Bense, himself a resident of Panama City served as House Speaker from 2004 to 2006, noted the significant amount of funds raised by the initiative, but said the community faces far more need. “We knew recovery would take time, but public assistance is needed now more than ever – and there are many ways Floridians can help beyond donating money and volunteer hours,” said Bense. “This region needs visitors and investors to support the local economy, so our people can get back to work and earn the paycheck that will get them through this terrible time.”

The group looks forward to a productive partnership with the state, adding that Florida’s new Governor Ron DeSantis highlighted the need for all of Florida to continue helping the region. In his inaugural address, the Governor said, “Hurricane Michael did not destroy the resilience and resolve of the people of Northwest Florida. To the communities impacted, we will stand with you to rebuild your communities stronger than before.”

The conference call ended with a plea for everyone to visit the website and pledge what they can.