Bryan County was lucky in its recent close encounter with Hurricane Dorian. We spent a lot of time and effort preparing, but it was not wasted energy – better safe than sorry. In fact, we hope the recent activities will serve as a reminder to county residents to take proper precautions and make decisions with safety in mind. Dorian has passed, but there will be plenty of others to follow it, especially as we’re only at the beginning of hurricane season.
Hurricane season runs through November, and this one is forecasted to be busier than average. Thankfully, our community has Bryan County Emergency Services to look out for residents and help keep us safe in the face of inclement weather threats.
BCES Chief Freddy Howell and his crew start anticipating the possibility of bad weather long before most of us even know that a storm is forming hundreds of miles out in the Atlantic.
They waste no time formatting a plan that includes a lot of advance preparation and a course of action that may need to be executed if Bryan County experiences heavy damage. And not only do they work hard to get all their ducks in a row well ahead of time, they’re excellent about keeping all local officials and residents well-informed.
If you aren’t already following BCES on social media, I encourage you to start. They regularly post informative updates and important details that will help you and your family prepare, understand the threat and make the safest decisions. While not every hurricane that materializes is an imminent threat to Bryan County, in the early days of a storm – with the path is hard to predict – Chief Howell and his crew must err on the side of caution.
They prepare the county under the assumption that we very well could find ourselves in the eye of the storm. While we hope that never happens, we can’t risk being unprepared if it does.
BCES starts by tracking the hurricane and providing development updates regularly. County buildings and most water wells are equipped with generators, so residents won’t have to deal with a disruption in service.
Crews ready the pump stations and fill up all fuel storage tanks in the county and those owned by the school system.
The BCES staffers are put on alert. If the county is mandatorily evacuated, not all county employees leave. Some, such as EMS, Public Works and other essential staffers, stay in the north end, others in the south end. The crews do what they can to mitigate damage in the event of a hurricane and work to prepare the area for safe re-entry after evacuation orders have been lifted.
And speaking of evacuations, if one is implemented, please follow the orders. It’s also important to know your rights. If a mandatory evacuation has not been ordered during inclement weather, employers are not required to close. However, during a mandatory evacuation, employees must be allowed to leave. If Bryan County is put under a mandatory evacuation, please take your family and go. Do not stay and risk your safety or lives.
Make arrangements now so that everyone in your family is familiar with the plan if the need ever arises.
Think now about where you’ll go, what routes you’ll take, what you’ll need to bring along, and make special accommodations for pets or relatives who have special health needs.
If Bryan County is put under a voluntary evacuation and you choose to stay, please exercise caution, use common sense and follow guidelines. If Chief Howell and BCES advise residents to stay off the roads during or after a hurricane or storm, please listen. Don’t venture out because it “doesn’t look that bad” or because you want to survey the post storm damage. There’s a reason why you’re being told to stay indoors, and it’s to your own benefit to follow directions. In addition, if you do evacuate, do not try to return home until the county has been given re-entry orders. You may end up jeopardizing your own safety or the safety of our emergency crews.
As you may recall, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency in several Georgia counties well ahead of Dorian’s anticipated impact. While some were quick to offer criticism and accuse Kemp of “jumping the gun,” so to speak, it’s important to know why he made that call. Declaring a state of emergency prevents price gouging on emergency supplies (such as drinking water), and at gas stations, hotels and motels, making it easier on evacuees from Georgia or surrounding states who may need to pass through the area.
In most states, price gouging during a time of emergency is considered a violation of unfair or deceptive trade practices law. Most of these laws provide for civil penalties, as enforced by the state attorney general, while some state laws also enforce criminal penalties for price gouging violations.
If you’ve lived on the coast for a while, you know that hurricane season can be an aggravation, but it’s something we deal with and it must be taken seriously. If you’re new to the area, please know that as scary as this may seem, everyone can be kept safe if you make a plan, follow official orders and take your safety seriously. To stay in the loop, be sure to sign up for CodeRED Weather Warnings. They deliver automated advanced warning of severe weather as soon as a bulletin is issued by the National Weather Service. The system delivers voice calls, text messages and emails to subscribed users within the direct path of a storm. These messages provide recipients extra time to take shelter or evacuate, which can save lives.
To sign up, please visit https://www.bryancountyga.org/i-want-to/code-red.