Community leaders, first responders and emergency services providers gathered together in the Liberty County annex building Thursday to discuss the upcoming hurricane season.
Liberty County Emergency Management Agency Deputy Director Larry Logan and EMA Specialist Robert Dodd presented information on the various emergency support functions that operate before during and after a hurricane.
They also provided information on how the community should prepare, the responsibilities of each municipality and what is expected for this hurricane season.
Hurricane season started Friday. It runs through Nov. 30.
Dodd said forecasters expect a normal to just above normal hurricane season but reminded everyone that it only takes one direct hit to significantly impact an area.
Dodd said Liberty County does not have hurricane shelters except for shelters of last resort. He said emergency SEASON from 1
personnel called to duty will be provided shelter during the storm.
Dodd said the evacuation zones were updated for this season after collecting feedback from hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Irma in 2017.
“We changed evacuation zone A,” he said. “It is going to be all of Riceboro, and all of Midway from Coastal Highway 17 East and along Barrington Ferry Road east. The rest of the county is zone B.”
Dodd said local evacuations would be decided by county and city officials.
The Shuman Center will be the meeting point for evacuees without their own transportation.
Dodd said each municipality is responsible finding the means of getting those without their own transportation to the Shuman Center and for when they return, post storm.
Liberty County IT Specialist Clint Stanley reminded emergency support function leaders and operational providers that they needed to complete emergency operations center (EOC) web-based training. He said they’ve changed security measures at the EOC and only a select few individuals will be granted access. Those individuals must sign in and out, and be given an access pass which denotes what areas of the EOC they are allowed to be.
Logan explained how the EOC is activated and said not all personnel need to respond to the EOC during the monitoring and partial activation stages. He said that city and county personnel need to know that placing requests for generators and supplies from GEMA or FEMA could cost them money down the line.
“You have to be careful when you request resources,” he said adding that if the area has not been declared as an emergency by the Governor the municipality will not be reimbursed for those requested expenses.
County Administrator Joey Brown also added that GEMA will not honor any requests for generators or resources prior to a storm.
Liberty County Fire Service Fire Chief Brian Darby said each fire and volunteer fire department will be responsible for their respective day-to-day operational costs before, during and after a hurricane in their coverage areas. He wanted the community to understand that emergency fire, EMS and police services do not operate during sustained 45 mile per hour winds.
“If the winds are 45 M.P.H. sustained…for the safety our personnel, we are not sending out a police car or fire truck,” he said. “So if you do stay in the county, understand that at some point, no matter how desperate you might be for life-saving services, you may not get it because of wind speeds.”
Liberty County Sheriff Office Chief Deputy Jon Long echoed the message saying officers can’t be on the road during those sustained winds. Long along with representatives from the Georgia Department of Transportation, Georgia State Patrol and Georgia Power all advised the best thing to do is to stay off the roads if possible.
Georgia Power representative Randy Mayfield cautioned the group about the hazards of downed power lines. He said the may appear to be dead but could be a live wire capable of causing severe harm. He said live wires don’t always spark and when clearing tree debris and limbs people should be mindful that a line touching a tree limb could be harmful.
“A tree is 80 percent conductive because it is full of water so you can get hurt,” he said. Mayfield said the best thing to do if you come across a power or cable line is to go through the 9-1-1 call system.
He said Georgia Power and other power companies will stage utility workers at safe locations pre-storm so they can enter an impacted area soon after the storm. He noted that the bucket trucks can’t operate under sustained winds of 35 M.P.H.
Dodd talked about the new five-phase re-entry plan adopted by GEMA.
Re-entry permits will now be issued electronically and are for use state-wide following a disaster which requires a phased re-entry. GEMA/HS will be the lead agency in issuing permits, Dodd said.
Permits will only be issued for entities that qualify under Phase 2 or Phase 3.
• Phase 1: Render Safe Task Force Team Re-Entry (No Permits Issued)
• Phase 2: Emergency Response and Life Safety Workforce Re-Entry (Re-Entry Permits Required)
• Phase 3: Essential Public and Private Sector Personnel Re-Entry (Re-Entry Permits Required)
• Phase 4: Local Residents, Property Owners, and Business Owners (No Permits Issued)
• Phase 5: Open to Public with Limited Access (No Permits Issued)
Agencies needing to apply for a permit may apply online at: email@example.com