States are starting to panic as they’re becoming very aware of the need to deal with two crises at once. As if the pandemic hasn’t been hard enough, draining away resources, hurricane season is quickly approaching.
Emergency management officials are worried that they don’t have enough resources. Additionally, if there’s a combination of hurricanes and flooding, it could also lead to a new wave of COVID-19 infections.
Officials throughout Florida, Alabama, and other states known to be in the path of some of the planned 2020 hurricane season storms are creating new disaster plans. In the event of an evacuation, the large group of evacuees could result in spreading the coronavirus. After all, everyone will need to be accepted into a shelter if evacuation is mandatory. The size of the shelters, too, doesn’t allow for the accepted measures for social distancing.
Some states outside of the path of hurricanes are dealing with their own issues. Colorado has firefighters looking to establish a social distancing strategy for the long-duration wildfires. New York is investing in AC units for low-income public housing for seniors to keep them out of the cooling centers during the summer heatwaves.
Hurricane + Pandemic…emergency management officials are fearing the worse.
As Carrie Kroll, the VP of Advocacy, Quality and Public Health at the Texas Hospital explains, if something like Hurricane Harvey were to hit in the middle of the pandemic at the same time as flu season and kids maybe going back to school, it’s an “absolute nightmare.”
States simply don’t have experience responding to large-scale natural disasters, especially during a global pandemic. Most of the time, states are able to rely on their neighbors as a support network. However, this network is practically nonexistent because of everyone working to contain the coronavirus. FEMA and the National Guard have their hands full, too.
It leaves local officials improvising as quickly and as best as they can.
Hurricane season starts Monday, officially. There are also predictions that Florida is likely to be hit with at least one major hurricane.
Peter Gaynor, FEMA Director, has already explained that they faced a historic run of disasters in 2020. However, they are ready to answer the call in the event of hurricanes or other major disasters hitting the country.
Typically, local volunteers are the ones that step up and are ready to help. However, they may be less likely to assist because of the pandemic. If they or someone they live with are susceptible to the virus, they may bow out cheerily for self-preservation.
As soon as areas are told to evacuate, stadiums and high school gyms are going to become hotspots. With inefficient resources and not enough time in volunteers, testing everyone before going into an evacuation site will be impossible.
Meanwhile, coronavirus has already shown that there are major problems with supply chains. Food and transportation networks could take an even bigger hit if there is a hurricane barreling up the East Coast, disrupting shipping and trucking. In areas where there are still empty shelves and limits on the number of products that can be purchased by a single family, preparing for an emergency is going to be a challenge.
Many wonder how to safely evacuate people with the pandemic going on since many of the public are still fearful of leaving their homes. The senior vice president of disaster services for the American Red Cross, Trevor Riggen, worries that people are going to hesitate. There is already a number of people suffering from anxiety when having to leave their house. Forcing people to evacuate may be a challenge, which begs the question of how many people are actually going to leave – and if a catastrophic storm comes through, how many additional casualties will take place.
It all comes down to preparedness. With resources already spread thin, it’s important that people focus on doing what’s right for themselves. Preparing without hoarding and listening to the messages from emergency personnel will be critical to make it through both the pandemic and hurricane season.