Thursday, June 18, 2020

Hurricane Preparedness During the Pandemic

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a critical and evolving situation, it’s important to remember that June 1 brought the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season. With three named storms by the first week of June, this promises to be an active season. 

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Pete Gaynor recently wrote a letter advising emergency managers that the NOAA Climate Prediction Center’s 2020 outlook on hurricanes in the Atlantic has forecasted a 60% chance of an above-normal season. 

City and town leaders should promote safeguards for the vulnerable and encourage ongoing social distancing even during hurricanes. 

Here’s a few pointers to consider amid the pandemic: 

  • Educate residents to think about stocking supplies that are not readily available, such as extra masks, and prescription medications.
  • If evacuation plans call for the use of buses, consider spacing to allow social distancing or provide additional personal protective equipment, or PPE, such as face masks.
  • Encourage residents to evacuate to the homes of family or friends, and use shelters as a last resort.
  • Consider a medical screening process at city emergency shelters to reduce the exposure of those with COVID-19 symptoms, and consider an alternate shelter location for individuals infected with the virus.
  • Determine the maximum capacity at shelters and secure additional space if necessary to accommodate social distancing.
  • Serve meals cafeteria-style instead of buffet-style for those in shelters. 

While a few considerations are mentioned here, FEMA’s publication, COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season, includes additional information as you plan and prepare for this hurricane season.