Preparing for a hurricane during a pandemic: CEMA hosts virtual conference Thursday

WSAV Hurricane Central

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The pandemic is making many things more complicated including our preparation for hurricane season. The Chatham Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) is preparing now in case the worst happens.

Hurricanes don’t care if there’s a global pandemic. Hanna is the first named hurricane of the 2020 season that barreled down on southern Texas and likely won’t be the last.

“This year is so much more complicated,” CEMA Community Outreach Coordinator, Chelsea Sawyer said.

It’s complicated because of COVID-19. Chatham Emergency Management Services is keeping you informed with a virtual conference on how to handle a hurricane during a pandemic. Sawyer said officials will give details on preparation, planning, response, and recovery during this unprecedented time.

“Because you’ve got a lot of people that wouldn’t mind evacuating that don’t really want to stick around for a hurricane or any type of storm, but now they have that added pressure of what do Ido and where do I go?” Sawyer said.

The Savannah Civic Center will still be used as the staging area with social distancing measures in place. Sawyer said some residents say they don’t feel comfortable evacuating to a COVID-19 hotspot.

“We’ve got to think about how we’re going to physically distance our residents if there is a shelter in place order or if there’s an evacuation order,” Sawyer said.

In addition social distancing people on buses. In the past, there were 20 buses transporting residents to inland shelters. That number will double to 40. CDC and American Red Cross guidelines are recommending 110 square feet per person in shelters. That number is usually 40 square feet.

“We have to figure out how we’re going to make that work,” Sawyer said.

While we don’t know how hurricane season will shape up yet on the coast of Georgia and South Carolina emergency officials say to have a plan in place as some are still putting the pieces back together from past storms.

The virtual conference will take place this Thursday from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. with breaks throughout the day. Admission is $50.

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