Savannah, Chatham County set up separate emergency operation cen - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Savannah, Chatham County set up separate emergency operation centers during TS Hermine

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)
CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) -

Questions are being raised about how the City of Savannah and Chatham County handled Tropical Storm Hermine as it made its way through our area. 

During the storm, WTOC’s Elizabeth Rawlins realized that emergency officials from the city and county are not housed under one roof. In fact, they have two separate emergency operations centers.

When we arrived here at CEMA, we noticed there was no one here from the city, like Savannah Fire or SCMPD. That's when we realized city crews were at another command center a couple of miles down the road.

Now that the storm has passed, both the city and county emergency management directors believe it's time to tweak the official hurricane plan. Realizing a major weakness is having multiple command centers.

"It's always better to have face-to-face communication versus trying to do it electronically,” said CEMA Director Dennis Jones.

At CEMA headquarters, county officials were handling unincorporated Chatham County with Southside Fire, EMS and the Red Cross.

"If we need a resource request, we go to them,” said Savannah Emergency Management Director David Donnelly.

Across town, Donnelly was running the city's command center which housed Savannah Fire, Metro police, and other city agencies.

"The challenges of having all of these multiple locations is communication,” said Jones.

And ironically, seven miles down the road on Chatham Parkway was the Emergency Communication Center that both the city and county depended on, where more than 4,000 emergency calls were made.

"It's always better to have face-to-face communication versus trying to do it electronically,” said Jones.

"I think communications should be joined at the hip because of their role in the emergency management process,” said Donnelly.

Donnelly says it not unusual for there to be multiple command centers in a county,

"The city has certain things we need to accomplish and the county has their own mission,” said Donnelly.

But they're realizing jurisdictions can become just blurred lines during a major weather event. 

“Sometimes you need to be able to get information right away... that's got to be down with a phone call,” said Jones.

We are told the county is considering finding a facility to house most of the Chatham County municipalities, but those plans are just in the early discussion phases.

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