CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Hurricane season officially began on Tuesday and for the first time since 2019, Charleston County Emergency Management Officials participated in an Emergency Response Drill to prepare in the event of a hurricane or major storm.
Leaders say it’s a necessary step to make sure the county is ready to respond.
Meteorologists are predicting 2021 could be another active hurricane season and Lowcountry officials say they want to be prepared for any and all potential threats.
Leaders from Charleston County, surrounding municipalities, and state officials simulated their response to a tropical storm making landfall in the Charleston region during Wednesday’s drill.
From Hurricane Gracie to Hurricane Hugo, Matthew and Dorian, the Lowcountry is no stranger to hurricanes and the preparations needed to keep people safe. Officials participating in the practice drill say it’s important to always be prepared.
“It just takes one storm to ruin our summer or our fall so realistically I always put in… it just takes one,” says Joe Coates who serves as Chief of Operations for the Charleston County Emergency Management Department.
Charleston County leaders activated the Emergency Operations Center on Wednesday simulating the impacts from a dynamic tropical storm based on a storm that made landfall in Charleston back in 1938.
Coates developed the emergency drill for staff to participate in based on the tropical storm that spurred five tornados and brought a wide array of damage to the Lowcountry. Coates says it provides a realistic scenario for staff to work through in real-time.
“Exercise our emergency operations plans and to make sure that we are able to provide an all-hazards approach to safety for our citizens,” says Coates.
The emergency drill is an annual event for the county but was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19. For some Charleston County employees, it was their first chance to practice the plans in place for a threatening storm. For others, Coates says it gave them a chance to knock off the dust.
“So this is the ideal chance for them to kind of come in and cut their teeth and get ready in case we do have an emergency and we have to activate for a hurricane or any other type of event,” says Coates.
Another concern high on the minds of county officials, a constant influx of new residents to the area who have never had to prepare for a hurricane.
“So that’s a major concern, are those that are complacent who don’t understand how violent these storms can be and all the different hazards that are associated with them,” says Coates.
Safety and preparation is a common goal across the region, county and state in order to be ready and prepared in the event of a major storm.
“It’s very key so that you’re prepared, and your family has something in case we have a no-notice event,” says Coates.
Charleston County officials are urging residents to check and double-check their hurricane-ready plans. Officials say those include making sure you have enough supplies in your hurricane kits, knowing your evacuation routes and having safety plans in place.
Officials who participated in the emergency drill will review Wednesday’s practice operation in a month to look at areas where the county is strongly prepared as well as areas that might need improvement.