SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — As Hurricane Ian is likely to intensify as it moves into the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday, the Chatham Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) is ready to keep the public informed with updates.

Chelsea Sawyer, Emergency Management Coordinator of CEMA. (Photo provided by Chelsea Sawyer)

Interview with Chelsea Sawyer, Emergency Management Coordinator of CEMA

On staffing to prepare for Hurricane Ian:

“CEMA has staff that’s working around the clock.  Throughout the year we have what’s called a Duty Officer that works 24/7, that rotates on a weekly basis. Right now, our team is activated Monday through Friday, working roughly 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“As we get closer to the storm we will start to transition, fully anticipating that by Thursday, we’re going to be moving to 24 hours a day operations within our Emergency Operations Center.”

On CEMA working with outside agencies to support their efforts:

“The benefit of working in an Emergency Operations Center is that you bring in outside departments and outside agencies to support.  CEMA doesn’t run an EOC by ourselves. We really pull from a lot of county departments and work with other municipalities to really give us a holistic view of Chatham County when we go into an emergency situation.”

On what their main goal is before, during and after Hurricane Ian:

“We want to make sure we get the right information to the right people at the right time. That is the number one goal of CEMA and the number one goal of emergency management when you’re in that crisis mode.  You want to make sure that your residents know the threats that are really coming to them and what they can do to either mitigate those threats or avoid them entirely by avoiding the area. With this storm, our primary threat is going to be tropical storm force winds and some potential for isolated flooding and isolated tornadoes. So, a big thing is making sure that people have a way to get instant communication at a moment’s notice.”

On how residents and city visitors can get CEMA alerts:

“Two options. You can go to Chatham Emergency Management Agency’s home page. They can sign up to receive CEMA alerts through there. It’s a portal at the top right side of our screen. The second option is just for text messages. They can text CEMA to 77295 and automatically sign up to receive those alerts.

Plans put in place on coastal flooding:

When it comes to coastal flooding, what you want people to do is have a way to get those emergency alerts to make sure they know what’s going on within our community and two, have a way to get out.  If their homes start to flood, if they start to notice flooding encroaching into their homes, they need to be able to get out, it’s not safe for them to stay in that environment.  A big part of this is communication.  Residents, especially those who have been out on Tybee for a long time, know how to prepare themselves in their homes, they just need to know when it’s going to happen and what potential impacts will look like.  Then, be able to make those decisions for themselves.”

On downed power lines

“Things to keep in mind because with this storm trees could come down on power lines, you want to make sure that if you need to have electricity for durable medical equipment, you need to have a backup plan, you either have a generator or you have a place that you can go so that you’d be able to still use your equipment or get your medication, whatever your need is.  But, have a plan for what to do, if there is an extended power outage  for any amount of time.”

Quick Tips, who to call:

If your home floods:

“Call 911 to notify them and get help. Later,  inform your home insurance about the flooding in your home to get repairs.”

Flooded roads:

“Police close flooded roads”

Fallen trees due to wind:

“Homeowners, if a tree goes down on your house and someone is hurt, call 911. After the storm passes, you may notify your municipality of downed trees.”

Downed tree on a power line:

“Georgia Power handles this.”

Tree in roadway:

“Public Works may handle this depending on road or Georgia Department of Transportation”