DHEC, SCEMD Incorporate COVID-19 Safety Measures into Hurricane Season Preparedness
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 5, 2020
COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, the South Carolina Emergency Management Division along with the members of the State Emergency Response Team are incorporating COVID-19 precautions and procedures into plans for the 2020 hurricane season.
Atlantic hurricane season, which is June through November, will be unlike any other as state officials incorporate pandemic-specific practices into emergency preparedness plans. This strategic, calculated emergency planning helps protect lives and property during hurricanes, tropical storms, floods, and other severe weather events.
“We’re facing a new era in hurricane planning,” said Marshall Taylor, General Counsel for DHEC. “We’ve worked closely with SCEMD, state agencies, and community partners in formalizing plans for this year’s hurricane season that include an overarching focus on maintaining COVID-19 recommendations for preventing spread of the virus during storm response.”
Part of DHEC’s planning for this year includes innovative measures for adhering to COVID-19 prevention guidelines during medical evacuation procedures and the organization of medical needs shelters. While the South Carolina Department of Social Services is planning for general population shelters, DHEC is responsible for coordinating safe, secure sheltering options for residents with specific medical needs, such as those on ventilators or those whose medications require refrigeration. Also included in this strategic planning is creating COVID-19-only locations for those recovering from the virus.
Additionally, DHEC is implementing across-the-board infection control monitoring that protects residents and those who care for them.
“We, like much of the nation, have never conducted a hurricane operation during a pandemic, but we know that together, with our partners and with the help of all South Carolinians, we will be resilient in the face of these new challenges,” Taylor said.
While DHEC, SCEMD and state agencies work together to incorporate pandemic precautions into hurricane plans, South Carolinians can take their own actions to be better prepared:
- Review your family emergency plans
- Know where you’ll go if you have to evacuate, and remember that the more people your family interacts with, the greater your chances are for contracting or transmitting COVID-19
- Stock your disaster supply kit, and make sure it includes cloth masks, soaps, hand sanitizers and disinfectants
- Review insurance policies
- Talk with your family about what could happen during a disaster
- Plan to continue to adhere to social distancing, mask-wearing and frequent hand-washing as much as possible
- Have more than one way to get emergency information from public safety officials: wireless Emergency Alerts on your cell phones, NOAA Weather Radio and official, verified social media feeds
“Just as we have updated our emergency plans to incorporate additional safety precautions for COVID-19, we need everyone to do the same while creating their personal emergency plan,” said Director Kim Stenson, SCEMD. “Remember to plan early, incorporate social distancing and know where you will go if you have to evacuate. The imminent danger of a hurricane is much greater danger to your personal safety than COVID-19.”
The 20th annual South Carolina Hurricane Guide is currently available for download at scemd.org, and printed editions will be in all Walgreens stores statewide, at coastal DMV offices, and in certain newspapers beginning June 7. Download the SC Emergency Manager mobile app as your official tool for emergency planning and stay connected to DHEC and SCEMD by visiting scdhec.gov and scemd.org, following both state agencies on social media, and monitoring your local media.