DHEC Stresses Importance Of Being Prepared For Severe Weather As Hurricane Season Begins

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The 2023 hurricane season officially began on June 1, and the South Carolina Department of Health and Control (DHEC) reiterates the South Carolina Emergency Management Division’s (EMD) important message of being prepared for severe weather events this summer and fall. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.

EMD is South Carolina’s primary coordinating agency during a severe weather event. DHEC, like other state agencies, has specific responsibilities to carry out before, during and after a storm that help protect people and the environment. These responsibilities include:

Overseeing and assisting with the evacuation (and reopening, after the storm) of hospitals and long-term care facilities, when requested by local officials.
Coordinating Medical Needs Shelters for people whose medical conditions exceed the capabilities of the general population shelters but are not severe enough to require a hospital stay.
Operating the Care Line call center to provide real-time public health and health-department related information.
Helping our state’s dam owners reduce the risk of dam failure and performing pre- and post-storm dam assessments.
Providing health services, like vaccines or WIC (Women, Infants, Children) services through health departments, off-site events or mobile resources.
Closing shellfish harvesting areas that are impacted by high levels of bacteria due to excess rain or other factors during a severe storm.
Assisting well owners with monitoring for possible contamination of their well water.
Additionally, in the immediate aftermath of hurricanes and tropical storm events, DHEC performs post-storm damage assessments of habitable structures, pools, and erosion control structures within the state’s beachfront jurisdiction. Due to the large number of tropical storm events over the past decade, the post-storm assessment process recently received a significant overhaul thanks to Samuel Nyarkoh, a GIS professional and project manager with DHEC’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM).

Nyarkoh worked with OCRM staff to develop a digital data collection platform utilizing tools within ArcGIS, a specialized geospatial software for mapping and analysis. These efforts resulted in an efficient real-time damage-assessment process, allowing DHEC staff to more quickly collect and process field data, assess damage, and communicate with local officials and residents about storm impacts within their coastal communities.

Visit EMD’s website at scemd.org or hurricane.sc for essential information about hurricane safety and preparedness in South Carolina, including a free download of the 2023 South Carolina Hurricane Guide. Learn more about DHEC’s roles during a severe weather event and its Public Health Preparedness Program at scdhec.gov.

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