Hurricane Season Begins; Emergency Managers Prepare Through Guides, Polls

South Carolina Emergency Management Division's hurricane guide provides statewide information for residents and an example for other state agencies.

by / June 1, 2009

Today marks the first day of hurricane season, and state and local emergency managers are dispersing information for the public and preparing their districts for the destructive storms.

The South Carolina Emergency Management Division created a hurricane guide that's posted online and being distributed in local newspapers. According to Derrec Becker, a public information officer for the division, the state began creating the preparedness guide in 1999 after being struck by Hurricane Floyd and realizing that pertinent information wasn't readily available for South Carolina citizens.

He said more than 750,000 copies of the guide are distributed from Columbia to the coast, and residents are encouraged to keep one copy at home and one in their vehicles.

"The guide is a result of us working together with other state agencies and nonprofits," Becker said. "We spend six months compiling all of the information and updating it every year with shelter locations, evacuation routes, what to do with your pets. So we really work as a team, the whole state emergency response team, to put this information together."

He said South Carolina was the first state to create such a guide, but Louisiana has copied it and published its own guide this year.

Florida Hurricane Poll

The Florida Division of Emergency Management released the results of a poll that it conducted to assess hurricane awareness and safety issues among Florida residents. The poll was first administered following the 2008 hurricane season, and the recent one was completed in May 2009.

According to a report, key findings from the poll include:

  • The majority of respondents indicated they have family disaster plans and hurricane survival kits, but many have never been through an evacuation or suffered significant property loss from a hurricane.
  • Most respondents answered both before and after hurricane season that they would opt to remain in their home communities and wait to rebuild if their homes were destroyed.
  • Most of Florida's residents would evacuate if ordered to, but nearly half don't know the location of the shelter nearest to them.
  • The best way to communicate with residents when their electricity goes out is by radio, but not all residents have included a radio in their hurricane supply kit.

"This survey is a useful tool for assessing state and local emergency managers' efforts to prepare Florida's residents for the upcoming hurricane season," said Ruben D. Almaguer, interim director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, in a statement. "It highlights the continuous need for local and state emergency managers to educate and assist Floridians to prepare their families and communities for severe weather."

FEMA's Hurricane Preparedness

According to a statement, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is preparing and for the 2009 hurricane season by:

  • working closely with its partners to ensure optimal readiness;
  • working with tribes and states to identify and analyze critical immediate response shortfalls, and working with them to identify resources to plug those gaps;
  • state-level partners are working with local governments to understand their capabilities;
  • pre-positioning critical supplies and equipment in strategic locations;
  • preparing and ensuring that key response teams are ready for rapid deployment to support state and local operations;
  • ensuring a coordinated and efficient response by creating 236 specific mission assignments with 29 different departments and agencies to expedite key response actions;
  • establishing new contracts for safe forms of temporary housing, to include innovative new forms of alternative temporary housing; and
  • working with Congress, tribal and state partners, and local officials to get the message out to the media and the general public: "Be Ready, Be Prepared, Survive!"
Elaine Rundle Staff Writer