Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette summed up the purpose of last week’s hurricane season kick-off planning session: “It’s all about preparation,” Lovette said.
The Liberty County Emergency Management Agency met June 6 with county and city leaders and various department heads, along with representatives from EMS, law enforcement agencies, Liberty Regional Medical Center, the public school system, utility companies, and the department of health. Attendees were briefed on numerous topics such as evacuations, communications, public safety and search and rescue.
Hurricane season starts June 1 and ends Nov. 30. The strongest peak of hurricane season is August through September. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting a “near-normal” hurricane season this year with nine to 15 named storms of which four to eight could become hurricanes, including two to four major hurricanes, according to noaa.gov.
LCEMA Director Larry Logan spoke about past storms that impacted Liberty County, saying each storm – like a child – is different. Some bring in high winds, others produce torrential rains that can cause flooding, according to Logan.
“Matthew opened my eyes to what could happen here,” Logan said.
LCEMA Specialist Robert “Bob” Dodd encouraged community leaders to spread the word about signing up for Alert Liberty, stressing that communication is vital to storm preparation.
Alert Liberty enables LCEMA to provide residents with critical information quickly in a variety of situations, such as severe weather, unexpected road closures, missing persons and evacuations.
If a resident opts-in to Alert Liberty, they can enter up to five different addresses (within Liberty County) with which they wish to receive alerts. Alert Liberty can call, text or email its users when there is an active alert at any of the selected addresses. Residents can choose the alerts they want to receive and can change their choices at any time by returning to the Alert Liberty website. Go to: https://www.libertycountyga.com/category/?categoryid=10
Logan said municipalities should stay current with EMA briefings from the Emergency Operations Center, to avoid conflicting information about hurricane evacuations such as informing the public when it is safe to return after a storm.
Dodd said the Shuman Center would be the evacuation assembly area for evacuees without their own transportation.
County Fire Chief Brian Darby warns residents to leave during an evacuation. Darby said once hurricane winds hit a sustained 45 mph, emergency vehicles will not be allowed on the roads and therefore first responders may not be able to reach someone who is injured during the height of a storm.
Attendees were also briefed on the Coastal Health District Hurricane Registry, set up to assist coastal residents who have medical concerns or physical challenges and do not have family or friends who can help them evacuate.
To apply for the registry, residents can call 1-833-CHD-REGISTER (1-833-243-7344) or visit gachd.org/registry. Registry applications will stop being accepted 72 hours prior to the arrival of tropical storm force winds, and therefore individuals should apply before a storm, health department officials said.
The public can attend a hurricane preparedness community meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 13, at the Liberty County Performing Arts Center. LCEMA will also host a hurricane preparedness expo from 3-6 p.m. Friday, June 14, at Lowe’s in Hinesville.