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Estimates of Populations Evacuating and Using Public Shelters
The National Hurricane Center provides the general guidance that evacuees should "run from the water and hide from the wind"-- meaning that historically the storm surge is the most deadly threat from a hurricane. Evacuation is considered the most preferred protective action for people living in storm surge zones and in-place sheltering for others.

The result of the latest studies conducted in 1994 (i.e., Behavioral Analyses of Chatham and other coast counties) indicate that the public is concerned about hurricanes. 63% would likely or very likely evacuate if the NWS issued a Watch and 84% would leave if a Warning were issued. A large majority of respondents reported that upon reaching their destination they would stay with friends or relatives (39.9%) or go to a motel (33.3%). 12% said they would seek a public shelter. 94% of the respondents had personal transportation to use for evacuation.

Based on the results of another study conducted in 1995 (i.e., Hurricane Evacuation Study for Chatham County) the numerical estimates of people evacuating the entire County under a County-wide Evacuation (i.e., Mandatory-Full) would be as follows:

The entire population of 231,243 residents would be at risk. Of these, 194,244 residents would evacuate with public shelters housing close to 30,061 residents.

These figures are generally consistent with the percentages found in the 1994 study. However, they do not include tourists and visitors who would be expected to evacuate anyway.

Sheltering and Types of Shelters
There are a variety of different types of shelters which will be utilized once a hurricane threat requires evacuation orders to be issued. These vary both in terms of location and in specific purpose. They include:
Local Public Shelters
Critical Workforce/Family Members Shelters
Inland Shelters
Pet Shelters
Special Needs Shelters

While citizens will always be encouraged to provide for their own sheltering needs (i.e., friends, relatives, hotels, motels, etc.) when evacuating from the path of a hurricane it would be unreasonable to expect that everyone would be able to satisfy those needs. Shelters must be provided which are safe, habitable and capable of sustaining minimum levels of care and life support (e.g., food, water, sleeping accommodations, trained mass care personnel, etc.) Some shelters must be able to provide for the needs of people who require a higher level of care or assistance with daily living (e.g., special needs facilities). Some people may require an even higher level of definitive care (e.g., a hospital).

Ideally these shelters will be as comfortable and close to home as possible. Unfortunately the severity of some storms will require that shelters be utilized at much greater distances and which still may be subject to the negative effects of the storms themselves. In all cases evacuees intending to use shelters will be encouraged to provide for themselves or their loved ones as much as possible and to bring clothing, bedding supplies, and other needed items for up to three days.

Local/Public Shelters
The Savannah Chapter of the American Red Cross, with assistance from Public Heath, the Department of Family and Children Services and others has primary responsibility for providing public sheltering. Shelters will not be opened locally for any category of hurricane prior to landfall. Shelters may be opened for fresh water flooding purposes and for recovery operations when the threat of a direct hit passes.

Shelters will be maintained and operated to provide safety and basic life support (including food and minimum level of medical care). They will be staffed by the following:
ARC Shelter Manager
ARC Shelter Operations Volunteers
Public Health Nurses
DFACS Registration Staff and Counselors
Tidelands Mental Health Professionals
ARES Amateur Radio Operators
Law Enforcement Officers (from the appropriate jurisdictions)

Shelters will only be opened after a Hurricane Warning and a Mandatory -Partial evacuation order have been issued. They will remain open for the duration of the threat.

Critical Workforce
Those public safety, emergency operations, critical workforce and other essential personnel who will be needed to carry out evacuation operations and/or initiate post-storm reentry and recovery operations will be expected to take shelter no later than when the gale force winds arrive. There are four designated shelters within and adjacent to Chatham County where many of them will report (and also stage equipment and vehicles).

These shelters will not be staffed like the local public shelters. However, two of them will receive feeding assistance from the Salvation Army. The other two will have provisions on site. They will be opened for use after a Hurricane Warning has been issued. (However, equipment may begin being staged there after a Hurricane Watch has been issued.) They will also be used for all categories of hurricane.

Inland Shelters
Experience has taught planners that the vast majority of evacuees make their decision to leave -- including their destinations -- as a personal decision. Most evacuees will travel to stay with family and friends. The rest will travel along the Interstates and major state highways, to large communities that offer a variety of services like motels and emergency shelters. Georgia does not experience a "shelter deficit" in regards to shelter spaces accessible for the vulnerable coastal areas. The designated Hurricane Evacuation Center communities are:
Primary Shelter Community Alternate Shelter Community
Augusta (Richmond County) Baxley (Appling County)
Douglas (Coffee County) Claxton (Evans County)
Dublin (Laurens County) Metter (Candler County)
Macon (Bibb County) Sylvania (Screven County)
Statesboro (Bulloch County) Vidalia (Toombs County)
Tifton (Tift County)
Waycross (Ware County)

Inland counties will open shelters at the appropriate time based on coordination with the coastal counties and the Red Cross Hurricane Watch Team. Shelters could be opened at the onset of either a recommended or mandatory evacuation is issued. Local and state authorities responsible for activating shelters will make decisions on an event-by-event basis.

State agencies in the SOC will coordinate with coastal and inland communities as well as the Hurricane Watch Team for information to the general public about the locations and directions. Public Affairs officers will disseminate information by a variety of means including press releases, local and state visitor/welcome centers and variable message signs. They will not release specific site information until shelters are ready to open.

To consolidate resources, only some Shelters will be activated. Hurricane Evacuation Centers would provide information and referrals about motels, restaurants and other services in the community. In the event a shelter begins to reach capacity, the shelter manager would communicate the situation to local authorities. The EOC would notify the SOC and/or the Hurricane Watch Team so they can plan how future evacuees could be directed to other shelters in the community or to other host communities. Activation of additional shelters will be considered based on need.

The following services should be available:
First Aid
Food and mass feeding
Information and Registration
Nursery for babies and toddlers
Bathing and toilet accommodations
Radio and telephone communications
Animal Control (pet shelters nearby at some sites)
Language (non-English) translators

The best way to prepare for disasters is to evacuate early and take your pets with you. If it's not safe for you, it's not safe for your pets. Animals left behind can escape through storm-damaged areas such as broken windows. Animals released to care for themselves may be-come victims of exposure, starvation, predators, contaminated food or water. If you leave, take your pets; you may not be able to return for your pets. There will be no local shelters for pets during any category of hurricane. Most if not all veterinary clinics and kennels as well as the Humane Society and Chatham County Animal Control will not accept them prior to a storm.

Pets need food and water during a disaster, too. To learn how to build a pet evacuation kit, follow the link below.

Many hotels and motels along the I-16 corridor and within host counties will accept pets with guests during hurricane emergencies. Public shelters will not. However, there will be designated pet shelters nearby in each of the host counties where there are public shelters. Owners will be informed of these locations upon reporting to the reception centers. They will be expected to sign Waivers and properly register their pet. Exotic pets (e.g., reptiles) will not be accepted.

Evacuees who need public transportation to reach host county shelters (i.e., Category 3-5 storms) will be allowed to bring the pets on buses if they are in travel carriers. Evacuees using public transportation to local shelters (i.e., Category 1-2 storms) will have to leave the pets behind or make other arrangements. In all cases when pets are evacuated the owners will be instructed to bring carriers, identification tags, food, immunization records and medicines with them.

The licensed inpatient health care facilities in Chatham County are required to have emergency and disaster plans appropriate for hurricane threats. Where specified and agreed upon in their plans or by separate letters of agreement local, State and/or Federal Governments will assist them prior to a hurricane. Afterwards assistance will be provided to the degree necessary. Furthermore to the degree that they remain operational and viable after a storm they will be expected to provide for the medical and mass casualty needs of the community, as appropriate to their routine function.

The degree of "shut down" operations and/or evacuation of facilities for any given storm will depend on the survivability and official policy of each institution. However as a general rule, they will cancel elective surgery, discharge those patients for whom patient care would not be compromised, transfer those patients who could be safely moved to safer facilities and make special arrangements for those whose condition will not allow transfer or evacuation. Furthermore psychiatric or mental health facilities will be expected to transfer their patients and staff to safer locations.

Health care facilities remaining operational during hurricane conditions will not be designated as public shelters and will only be expected to provide emergency care to the degree possible . They will be provided with law enforcement officers and amateur (Ham) radio operators to assist them as necessary. Other "emergency" assistance will be provided upon request and availability.

Nursing Homes/Care Facilities
Nursing homes, personal care homes, assisted living facilities and related entities which are licensed are also required to have emergency and disaster plans appropriate for hurricane conditions. Many patients and residents will be discharged into the care of family or guardians. The remainder will be transferred to a safer and similar facility if they are located in a mandatory evacuation area. Due to the additional lead time
requirements for transporting their patients or residents these facilities should be prepared to evacuate prior to an actual Mandatory evacuation order.

Other Residence Based Assistance/Treatment Programs
This is a broad category that encompasses mass homeless shelters, specialized homeless shelters, in-residence treatment programs and certain non-residence assistance programs, etc. If they are licensed or tax supported they are expected (if not required) to have a hurricane plan in place, similar to those already described.

Transportation assistance will also be provided if prior arrangements are made through transferred to do so. (Several of these have the means to transport their residents and clients without assistance.) However all residents and clients will need to be assembled at predesignated pickup point locations and ready for transport immediately after a Mandatory evacuation order is issued. (For anyone requiring "horizontal transport" separate arrangements will have to be made in advance) .

Category 1-2 storms: A non-medical special needs shelter will be opened at the Tidelands Mental Health Center. It will be staffed by various local program personnel who have received transferred Sheltering and Mass Care training. Law enforcement, Public Health transferred F.A.C.S. officials, as well as amateur radio operators will provide support. However all food and supplies will be the responsibility of the various programs utilizing the shelter. Certain "at risk" residents or clients may not be appropriate for placement in this shelter. Therefore they will be transported to a local public shelter. If such placement is also inappropriate then separate sheltering arrangements will have to be made by program staff in advance.

Category 3-5 storms: Similar procedures will be followed except that transportation will be to an inland shelter to be determined at the time. In all cases it will be necessary to have all evacuees assembled and ready for a single pickup. Multiple pickup schedules will not be possible.

Correctional Facilities
There are three major correctional facilities within Chatham County; the Youth Detention Center, the Chatham County Detention Center and the Coastal Correctional Institute. All of these facilities are required to have plans appropriate for hurricanes and should be self-sufficient during a storm. The Youth Detention Center will transport its residents to a similar facility inland. The other two facilities will shelter-in-place for all categories of storms.

Last Updated: May 19, 2015 9:47 AM

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