Thursday, December 20, 2018

Association of SC Mayors meeting targets emergency preparedness

From hurricanes to dam failures to acts of terrorism, the list of disasters which could impact South Carolina includes nearly everything, with the possible exception of volcanoes. 

Some of the disasters in the state's history have earned significant places in South Carolina folklore. The impact of the earthquake that struck a severe blow to Charleston on August 31,1886, can still be seen in the earthquake bolts added to reinforce the stability of houses throughout the lower peninsula.

The ever-present possibility of disaster provided the subject for a meeting of a recent meeting of the Association of South Carolina Mayors at the headquarters of the SC Emergency Management Division, in which SCEMD staff gave an overview of key emergency planning issues for city and town officials. 

The role of municipalities in emergency management is not as regulated as the role of counties. SC Code of Regulations Section 58-1 calls for each county to maintain an emergency management agency. Those entities are the primary point of contact for SCEMD at a local level during an actively unfolding situation. 

That said, the Code of Regulations also encourages municipalities to voluntarily establish their own emergency management program, which must coordinate with the county to request federal or state assistance. Cities and towns can also participate in state emergency exercises alongside counties.

Coordination issues aside, municipal officials face the same need for communication in a crisis as any other authority, and the Municipal Association provides tips for this situation. During the mayors’ meeting, SCEMD Public Information Officer Derrec Becker covered social media, interacting with news media and the importance of a city public information officer in an emergency, even going so far as to conduct a mock media interview for a disaster situation using his cell phone camera.

SCEMD staff also highlighted its new SC Emergency Manager app, which allows users to build emergency plans, find shelters, report damage and even use the phone's speakers as a locator whistle.