SPRINGFIELD — “There’s never a dull moment.”
That’s the way Director Clint Hodges summed up his job at the Effingham County Emergency Management Agency (EEMA), which has constantly juggled hazardous situations in recent years.
EEMA is a combination of local, state and federal government agencies working together in partnership with local volunteers and businesses to mitigate, prepare for, respond to and recover from all hazards that affect a jurisdiction. Since 2018, it has dealt with multiple episodes of dangerous weather, a gas leak at a school, plane crashes and more.
Hodges’ immediate concerns are the COVID-19 pandemic and hurricane season, which starts June 1.
“(The pandemic) is a little bit different situation than most,” Hodges said. “It’s a Department of Public Health event that we have been trying to support as much as we can.”
The lingering health crisis is different in another way, too.
“Typically, three or four days leading up to a hurricane, you have a pretty good idea of what is going to happen in that period,” Hodges said. “You don’t know exactly how bad it’s going to be but you have a concept to kind of see what’s on the radar and you have a recovery period. The pandemic is a lot different from that in that it is spread out and we are dealing with a situation that we have never dealt with before.
“... Trying to figure out where it’s going to be a week from now is just challenging.”
Effingham County has fared far better against the respiratory disease than many parts of the country. As of May 21, it had 48 cases and one death.
There have been 91,000 deaths nationally and that number is expected to rise to 113,000 by mid-June. The number of global cases has surpassed 5 million with at least 94,000 deaths.
“While we are (paying attention to the pandemic), we are also planning for the hurricane season that is coming up on us,” Hodges said.
Hodges noted that hurricane season got off to another early start. Tropical Storm Albert skirted past the coast of North Carolina last week, making it the sixth straight year that a named storm has developed before June 1.
“One of the big things is that I’ve seen some indications that it’s going to be a slightly above average tropical season,” he said. “In and of itself, that is a reason for concern but especially if social distancing continues,” Hodges said. “If we have to have an evacuation event, that’s where the planning really comes in.”
Hodges has been working with emergency officials from nearby counties and the state government to work on contingency plans.
“You don’t need to plan for (a hurricane) two weeks out. You need to do it now and that’s what we are doing,” he said.
Hodges thinks hotel vacancies might provide an alternative for evacuees.
The EEMA director, who doubles as chief of Effingham County Fire & Rescue, said cooperation among emergency agencies and the citizenry is the key to successful outcomes.
“We appreciate all the first responders out there,” Hodges said. “We also appreciate the support we get from the community, our elected officials and the administration. The support we have is overwhelming and I think a lot of places don’t have that quite as well as we do here and that is just a wonderful thing.”
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