Tropical Storm Isaias a test of Coastal Health District’s hurricane plans

Tropical Storm Isaias a test of Coastal Health District’s hurricane plans

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - “While we were okay this time, it should serve as a reminder to us to have plans in place for hurricane season,” Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said.

Mayor Johnson renewed a call echoed by many local leaders this week to have a plan for hurricane season.

For some people, that means signing up for the Coastal Health District Hurricane Registry. It helps anyone with medical needs, physical challenges, or transportation during an evacuation.

For others, it will mean making or updating your family's hurricane plan.

The mayor says make sure you have supplies ready to go and are thinking about how COVID-19 will impact your family in an emergency.

“If you have had an evacuation plan in the past, make sure that it’s still safe and doable based on the current pandemic. Remember it’s a very good possibility that you cannot evacuate or will not be able to evacuate to the place where you evacuated in the past,” Mayor Johnson said.

The Coastal Health District has been planning for months how to handle the coronavirus pandemic while also facing the threat of a hurricane. They say they felt confident about their plans after Monday’s threat.

“With every storm we get a little bit better and you know we’ve done this for a few times now, so I think we have a good plan. I think the challenge is going to be the sheltering piece and you know where people are going to go,” Chatham County Nurse Manager Tammi Brown said.

While Tropical Storm Isaias was a test, officials say COVID-19 didn’t impact their plans much as evacuations and shelters weren’t needed. If they are, hurricane preparations will look a lot different.

Not only will there be fewer people on buses and in shelters, but they will need to have plans should someone have COVID-19. Additionally, the Civic Center, which is being used for testing, would need to be repurposed for evacuations after health department officials assist hurricane registry members.

“If we need to move out of that testing center so that we can get into hurricane mode then we do that because we have to evacuate the individuals on the hurricane registry so we take them to a separate undisclosed location and we’ve got to get all of them on buses or paratransit and get them safely off to their destination before you know we can head to the emergency operation center and start working there,” Brown said.

Health department leaders say as they handle hurricane season and the coronavirus pandemic, they have to be flexible and prepared. They talk regularly with CEMA, state and other DPH offices. But they also say they can’t help if those who have medical and functional needs don’t sign up for the hurricane registry.

“We strongly encourage people if they think, even if they are not sure, if they think that they you know might be able to get on the registry give us a call and we’ll go over the application with them and if they qualify they will be on the registry,” Brown said.

Leaders say right now there are only 207 people on the registry, but after the storm an additional 20 people have signed up and they hope more will follow suit to stay ready as hurricane season continues.

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