gadsden county



 – As Gadsden County reels from the devastating impacts of COVID-19, another challenge is looming for Gadsden Countians still trying to get back on their feet: the 2020 North Atlantic Hurricane Season.

Hurricane season officially begins today and continues through November 30. The cyclone names are Arthur (already formed and dissipated off Florida’s east coast on May 14), Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo, Hanna, Isaias, Josephine, Kyle, Laura, Marco, Nana, Omar, Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicy and Wilfred.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expects an above-average hurricane season amid the global pandemic. The outlook, released by NOAA last week, anticipates 13 to 19 named storms, of which six to 10 could become hurricanes and three to six major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher). The federal forecasters say these ranges are made with 70 percent confidence.

Today, Gadsden County Board of County Commissioners Chairman Anthony O. Viegbesie, Ph. D and Director of Emergency Management Maj. Shawn Wood informed county staff, health care officials, and community leaders that emergency management officials are setting plans in motion to prepare for the 2020 hurricane season.

Chairman Viegbesie and Maj. Wood warned everyone that assistance and provisions for residents this season will look very different from years past.

“Hurricane season 2020 has already begun. I know it is a hard topic to discuss, but we need to address it immediately so our County can be adequately prepared for this year’s hurricane season. It’s important that Gadsden County residents know that we are preparing for hurricane season while also responding to COVID-19,” Chairman Viegbesie said.

There will be a considerable decrease in the number of people staffing the county Emergency Operations Center (EOC). There will be remote coordination sites where smaller groups can meet to coordinate specific types of tasks, therefore allowing the county to maintain social distancing guidelines and maintain enhanced cleaning services and prevent the potential spread of COVID-19.

“In years past, the EOC has been staffed with approximately 20 emergency management employees and first responders ready to direct aid and provide assistance to county residents,” Maj. Wood said. “This year, however, only six employees will be allowed in the EOC while all other staff members work remotely."

Due to health conditions, county residents requiring special accommodations will have to follow different protocols to receive assistance should a hurricane affect the region.

Anyone that is special needs, on oxygen, requires electricity to run medical devices or things that require an individual to register for our special needs program can do so by visiting SNR.FLHealthResponse.com.  It is very important that our most vulnerable citizens register this year as we need to prepare for you to come to the special needs shelter. Again, you can register for our special needs program by going to SNR.FLHealthResponse.com or calling 850-875-8833.

 Hurricane shelters will also be heavily modified this season and will have many more health and safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“If, for some reason, you have a temperature or you are unable to go through the triage system, then we will find a different type of transport to a medical-type facility -- not a hospital, but a medical-type shelter for those individuals,” Maj. Wood said.

The county’s sheltering plan is also going to be very different. County shelters usually opened in Gadsden County schools and were generally in large cafeterias and gymnasiums.

Due to COVID-19, the county’s previous sheltering plan is not possible anymore with social distancing. The county is looking to utilize classrooms, isolation rooms to keep people separated into smaller groups, certain feeding times for individual groups inside of the shelter to minimize exposure of individuals to each other during the event. Before entry into the shelter, there will also be triage and temperature checks to get into the emergency shelter.

Social distancing will be at the core of all emergency sheltering situations. According to Maj. Wood, emergency officials will continue to develop plans to manage a pandemic in the face of a hurricane should the instance arise.

For help and information on preparing for disasters, download our preparedness, please visit floridadisaster.org/getaplan.  Remember,now is the time to prepare.

To receive emergency alerts to your phone or emails from Gadsden County Office of Emergency Management, register at https://www.gadsdencountyfl.gov/alert_detail.php. or text AlertGadsden to 888-777.

To stay informed and monitor conditions for Gadsden County, visit Gadsden County’s website www.gadsdencountyfl.gov, Facebook, or Twitter.


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