Possible changes to hurricane preparations amid pandemic

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HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW)- Researchers are predicting an active hurricane season this year with nearly double the amount of named storms.

Local and state emergency managers are discussing what a hurricane landfall could look like if coronavirus is still here.

Horry County Emergency Management is working with state and local partners, FEMA, and the Red Cross as the coronavirus pandemic is forcing a re-evaluation of hurricane response.

“You need to look at everything single thing that goes on. From ho needs to be in the emergency operations center? What does that look like? To sheltering and evacuation plans, does anything like that change?” said Thomas Bell, spokesman for Horry County Emergency Management.

The Red Cross is working to put displaced people in hotels before congregate shelters like schools and community centers, locations that are vital spaces in large scale disasters like hurricanes.

The Red Cross said preliminary plans are to screen people, including taking temperatures, before letting them in. If someone shows symptoms, they will be isolated within the shelter.

Cots will be spaced out for social distancing, and they said capacity will be cut significantly.
Horry County Emergency Management said during Hurricane Florence they were no where close to hitting capacity for shelters.

FEMA also issued new guidance on non congregate sheltering.

https://www.fema.gov/news-release/2020/03/31/coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic-non-congregate-sheltering


The agency said they’re ready to respond to any disaster. FEMA said 3,035 of its 20,443 employees are responding to coronavirus, but they said if they need more support they can activate employees from the Dept. of Homeland Security if needed.

“That’s the interesting thing about the COVID-19 pandemic is when we get a hurricane, normally it might be a few states who are kind of banded together dealing with it, getting the mutual aid maybe from somewhere else, but with the pandemic, it has kind of affected the entire country,” said Bell.

The agency said in a statement, “All major disaster declarations are continuing and there is no pre-set limit. FEMA will fund and support the states and territories as needed.”

Meanwhile Horry County leaders want to remind people now is the time to prepare for a hurricane.

“We are talking about it, we are thinking about it. we will have plans in place if the COVID-19 pandemic is here on top of a hurricane,” said Bell.

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