Hometown Heroes: Emergency response personnel - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Hometown Heroes: Emergency response personnel

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)

With Hurricane Matthew fresh on the minds of many locals, the Coastal Empire knew what to expect when a storm threatened the area this time. 

People were also better prepared because the agencies and Hometown Heroes making decisions in advance of the storm did a better job of providing the information they had. With Irma losing most of its force and turning away from us early, we got lucky, but most of the Coastal Empire especially made its own luck by being prepared for a second major storm in two years. 

"Our command policy group came together as a unified group and that's where it really started, just having all the elected officials and the city managers and county manager all on the same sheet of music," said Dennis Jones, Director, Chatham Emergency Management Agency. 

The Chatham Emergency Management Agency's plan for Hurricane Irma was evident and effective from the start - with a consistent message comforting the public and an early call for evacuation helping families eliminate delays for those getting out of town. 

"People started leaving early when they saw the threat of the hurricane and they saw the size and the magnitude of it. You know, we have a smart community," Jones said. 

It was a community being protected while it was away by emergency agencies and first responders who stayed behind and kept working. 

"We had a modification for the way we'd respond, we'd sent a few less units just to make sure we had enough available, but we still had accidents with injuries going on, still had fires, fire alarms," said Bob Milie, President, Savannah Professional Firefighters. 

So, luck might have kept the worst of Irma away, but the reaction to Irma was better than expected because of the Hometown Heroes who kept information, advice, and service to the community flowing. 

"After Hurricane Matthew, we had a lot of after-action meetings with partners and we learned a lot and staff and partners have worked very diligently over the last six to eight months putting things in place, and I think it showed," Jones said. 

Some changes CEMA implemented after Matthew that worked for Irma included a greater social media presence, rumor identification, and control, and having one person, Dennis Jones, serve as the face of the disaster. 

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