The last time Georgia’s coast was evacuated for a hurricane was in 1999 and, to put it bluntly, it was a mess.
Officials hope to avoid similar issues the next time an evacuation is issued, and that’s one reason the Coastal Health District sent out a call Tuesday to Bryan County residents who may need to be included in the county’s functional and medical needs registry.
In short, it’s way for public safety and public health officials to identify people who may need transport and medical help during a hurricane evacuation but don’t have resources such as family, friends, neighbors or church members to help them if they evacuate, according to CHD spokesperson Sally Silbermann.
“Right now there are only two people currently on the list in Bryan County, one on each end,” she said. “If a storm is on the horizon, we expect those numbers to jump because that’s when people start paying attention. But we don’t want people to wait. We want to get as many people on board as possible while the sky is blue and before a storm is coming.”
Eligibility for the registry is limited to people that meet certain criteria. And those who want to be considered for the registry need to contact the Bryan County Health Department.
People living in nursing homes, assisted living facilities or personal care homes are not eligible for the registry and have to follow their facility’s emergency plan. Nor are residents who simply don’t have a way out of the county were there to be an evacuation.
People with functional needs are those who may need services to maintain independence in a shelter and includes children and adults with physical, sensory, mental health and cognitive and intellectual disabilities that impact their ability to function independently without help, according to the CHD.
Those who have medical needs are people who require the support of trained medical professionals and includes “those individuals who may need assistance with managing unstable, terminal, or contagious conditions that require observation and ongoing treatment,” a recent CHD press release stated.
People on the registry will be evacuated to an American Red Cross Shelter inland — likely a gym or similar setting that could be several hours away.
“The registry is truly a last resort, but if a hurricane is threatening our area, it is important that health department officials know where the most vulnerable residents are located so that evacuation assistance can be provided to them,” Silbermann said in the release.
To apply, residents should call the Bryan County Health Department at 756-2611 in Richmond Hill or 653-4331 in Pembroke. The application and protected health information authorization form can also be downloaded by going to www.gachd.org/bryan and clicking on the Functional and Medical Needs Registration Information link on the right-hand side of the page.