Beaufort County releasing details of revised evacuation re-entry plan

BEAUFORT CO., SC (WTOC) - After learning some tough lessons during the re-entry process following Hurricane Matthew, emergency management leaders in Beaufort County are making some changes to that process.

That new re-entry plan is being released to the public. We spoke to the county's emergency management director about what you need to know should mandatory evacuations happen again.

Bad information regarding re-entry led to long lines as residents of Beaufort County tried to get back home too early.

"A lot of the Matthew confusion had nothing to do with the passes that were out there. It was the folks that didn't have passes, were not part of the re-entry plan, and they were getting their information from social media sources that were frankly incorrect. They were just flat-out wrong," said Lt. Col. Neil Baxley, the Emergency Management Division Commander for the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office.

In addition to centralizing efforts to put out re-entry information, a new four-tier pass system will be implemented, the details of which are listed in a YouTube video created by the sheriff's office, also on their website.

"The purpose of tiers, again, is to get folks back in the order that we need them to provide life-safety, life support and restoration of government services," Baxley said. "The re-entry pass system that we instituted in about 2005 or so had grown too large and too unwieldy so we had to refine it. We got it more detailed. Instead of two levels of passes now, there are actually five levels of re-entry."

"We all need to know if the infrastructure is here to be able to take care of us when we do get here. We don't want to cause a bigger problem than there already is," said Jody Hayward, a Beaufort County resident as well as the Executive Director of the Port Royal Sound Foundation.

Hayward says she's in favor of the tier process and streamlining sources of re-entry information.

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