CEMA to enter enhanced monitoring phase for Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma from space

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – While it is still unclear which path Hurricane Irma will take, the Chatham Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) isn’t taking any chances.

CEMA will advance to Operation Condition 4 on September 5 at 8 a.m., meaning it will enhance monitoring of the hurricane and any impacts it may make to the Chatham County area.

“We’re here answering phone calls, were here making sure our partners are very well informed of what the conditions are of this particular storm,” assures Dennis Jones, CEMA Director.

Employees are now working over time to monitor the storm and inform those partners — including governmental agencies, nonprofits, private and public health entities, and first responders.

CEMA will also initiate Level 3 activation of their Emergency Operations Center Wednesday, which “is a more heightened level of awareness and consists of CEMA staff and select partners.”

Irma is a Category 5 Hurricane with maximum sustained winds at 185 mph and higher gusts. And while there is no need to panic, CEMA is encouraging residents to stay prepared.

“What you can do to be prepared for this storm, or any emergency event, is to have a family emergency kit,” Jones says. “Have a family emergency communications plan.”

To sign up for the County Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) alert system, text “Follow ChathamEMA” to 40404 and you will receive text alerts from CEMA. (Make sure there is a space between ‘Follow’ and ‘ChathamEMA’)

READ MORE: How to prepare your family for a hurricane

CEMA is also implementing lessons learned less than a year ago with Hurricane Matthew.

“The biggest thing we learned from Matthew is communication, making sure we’re distributing information that’s in an easy to understand format,” says Jones.

Jones reminds residents to know their updated Evacuation Zone, should the orders come. But he knows there is only so much CEMA can do.

“When it comes times to really make decisions to evacuate, they’re going to make those decisions based on the needs of their family,” Jones says.

To prepare, CEMA also encourages residents to document important belongings, inspect their property for items that could become airborne, and call Chatham County Public Health Department (912-691-7443) if they have functional access or medical needs.

But Jones reminds residents, “Right now it’s a time to be cautious. It’s a time to be aware — it’s not a time to be worried.”

For more information visit chathamemergency.org.

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