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Colleton agencies work all year to prepare for hurricane season

One of the largest composites of last week’s preparedness and post-storm cleanup from Hurricane Dorian came from a large-scale collaboration by local law enforcement, first-responder and firefighter groups from across the county.
Hurricane Dorian brushed the South Carolina coast on Thursday, Sept. 5th as a Category Three hurricane. The storm resulted in erosion along the state’s beaches, along with inland debris and power outages from wind and rains.
By Saturday, clean-up crews from area police departments, city and county agencies, Colleton County Fire-Rescue and the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office had already been on the ground for several days, restoring the community back to normal. However, it was the pre-storm planning that took the most effort from these agencies.
Colleton County Fire-Rescue is now in charge of all emergency operations in Colleton County. This took place in 2018, meaning that the CCFR now oversees all emergency operations in the county, including hurricane preparedness and response. The group used grant funds to overhaul the county’s emergency response office. They also work with all state, federal and local law enforcement groups, rescue groups and volunteer organizations in the wake of a hurricane or natural disaster.
When asked how these groups worked together last week with Hurricane Dorian, Barry McRoy, director and chief of Colleton County Fire-Rescue, said everyone came together and worked as one unit to help the entire community.
“This entire event went very smoothly,” he said.
The Colleton County Sheriff’s Office
According to Shalane Lowes, spokeswoman for the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office, the sheriff’s office begins preparing for hurricane season in March of every year. Hurricane season in South Carolina lasts from June 1 through November 30th each year.
In March, the sheriff’s office public safety group meets with other area law enforcement and emergency preparedness groups. In this meeting, officials review any changes to the county’s roads or traffic patterns. Then, in May, a live simulation is held. In this mock event, area agencies come together at the Beaufort County Emergency Operations Center. There, they respond to the threat, and hit, of a hurricane to our Colleton and Lowcountry communities. “Agencies from the state, federal and local level, from numerous counties, attend this live simulation,” said Lowes.
Last week, when Hurricane Dorian was coming toward the South Carolina coast, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster issued an evacuation order for Zones A and B in Colleton County. This included Edisto Beach.
“We assisted the Edisto Beach Police Department, going door-to-door to ensure everyone has vacated from the island,” she said. “We assist that police department with their requests as soon as the weather becomes hazardous, and this allows our deputies and investigators safe travels to the island.”
Lowes said the sheriff’s office also helps the Edisto Beach Police Department with tree and debris removal, post-storm. They also routinely conduct property security checks, do traffic safety management and welfare checks on people who may not have evacuated during the threat of a hurricane. While this was done last week, these efforts are routinely done in each hurricane.
“Once all of this is done, before and after a hurricane, we continue normal operations as usual,” Lowes said.
The Walterboro Police Department
As for the Walterboro Police Department, the local police force has assigned one officer to attend all emergency operations and planning meetings for the region. The department also prepares for the storm and then works four main checkpoints during the actual evacuation.
“During this particular hurricane, we were able to monitor the points and had a steady flow of traffic that did not cause us to have to use any cones of lane closures,” said Lt. Amye Stivender, spokeswoman for the Walterboro Police Department and the Walterboro Fire Department.
According to Stivender, the WPD also assists fire-rescue and the sheriff’s office for any needs at the designated evacuee shelter, which is at Colleton County High School.
“Every certified officer within our agency is placed on a rotating schedule during natural disasters,” she said, when asked how the department works to keep so many officers on the city’s streets during a natural disaster. “This ensures that we have enough coverage, pending any major damage,” she said.
After the storm, officers with the Walterboro Police Department begin to survey the damage, helps to clean any debris and checks roads for safe passage.
“During any natural disaster, we try to keep our social media up-to-date with important information,” said Stivender. “This includes information on downed trees, powerlines, shelter information and any information from the (county’s) Emergency Operations Center.”
The Cottageville Police Department and the Edisto Beach Police Department also performed clean-up in their communities, along with traffic safety checks and safety checks on citizens. These agencies are also a part of the preparedness for a storm.
In addition to law enforcement and firefighting agencies, Colleton County also has CERT, a citizens-based volunteer group that trains to respond to emergencies.

Heather Walters (1607 Posts)