By Wallace McBride, Fort Jackson LeaderJune 21, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Hurricane season started June 1 and has already produced tropical storms Alberto, Beryl and Chris, with the next three storms to be christened Debby, Ernesto and Florence as they appear in the South Atlantic. Experts are predicting 14 tropical storms this season, six of which are likely to become full-fledged hurricanes.
Earlier this week, Fort Jackson conducted training sessions for its seven emergency shelter managers, putting them through exercises that simulated the various problems that arise when trying to help people during widespread emergencies.
"The first portion of the training will teach the technical procedures that Red Cross provides for shelter management, such as tracking personnel, and getting their correct personnel data," said R.J. Frazier, Fort Jackson's all hazards emergency manager.
When people arrive at shelters, they bring with them a number of unresolved problems, and are rarely well prepared, he said.
"Many of these folks who would come in might have lost everything, or have left in a hurry and might not have identification," Frazier said. "The shelter managers will have to keep account of personnel, and get folks accessed with the proper agencies and tools that they need. We might have to get them clothes, blankets, contact with (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), food and the basics."
Volunteers had an assortment of scenarios to choose from when challenging the shelter managers, involving different kinds of family separations, special physical and medical needs, caring for infants and other potential issues.
"We have to tailor a package to assist these people inside the shelter," Frazier said. "Our intent is to provide those shelter managers from all the different units with the crucial tools to help those people make as smooth a transition as possible."
The session also focused on National Incident Management System compliance, a standardized approach to incident management that enables easier cross communication between state and federal agencies.
"We learned through Hurricane Katrina and Sept. 11 that we're not all talking the same language," he said. "You have to be vigilant, you've got to be attentive and you've got to be caring."
But hurricanes and tropical storms aren't the only kinds if natural disasters that South Carolina has to worry about. The state sits on a fault line and was the scene of one of the most powerful earthquakes to ever hit the Southeast in 1886, when a magnitude-7.6 earthquake caused millions of dollars in damage.
"We're overdue for our next major earthquake by several years," Frazier said. "Historically, it's been every 100 or 110 years that we have a significant earthquake in this region. We need to have the community ready at ground level."
For more information on hurricane preparedness, visit http://www.ready.gov/hurricanes.