Emergency management says COVID combined with a major storm could be a big problem

Posted at 3:25 PM, Jul 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-27 16:43:20-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Emergency management leaders around the region have been preparing for hurricane season as the pandemic continues to be a problem.

Chesapeake Emergency Management Director Rob Braidwood told News 3 he is worried about hurricanes all the time; however, this year there is more concern.

“I am extremely concerned because I don't think the public understands how strained the shelter system is already in a perfect setting,” said Braidwood. “The big thing that the viewers need to really know is that COVID is going to have a dramatic impact on what we do with emergency shelters.”

Braidwood is leading a regional effort as emergency management agencies are trying to prepare open shelters in a coronavirus world.

He said the good news is that schools will be closed in many areas as students will be home learning virtually.

But he said if there is a major storm and they need to open shelters, there could be big problems.

“We already - in the Hampton Roads area - have a deficit with how many people we can shelter publicly before and after a hurricane, and with social distancing, that is all further reduced so it's more difficult now to do sheltering for hurricanes because of COVID,” said Braidwood.

He said the supply chain is already seriously strained due to the pandemic and it will be difficult for the government to get additional supplies.

“Now, there are still grocery stores where you can't find toilet paper,” said Braidwood, “so people need to know that going into hurricane season, that when you rush out to go get bread and eggs and all like that, that everybody does. You know, it's going to be more difficult in a COVID environment where people are already kind of hoarding food anyways.”

He said now is the time to prepare for yourself and vulnerable family members.

Make sure you know where you will go if you need to evacuate. Click here to find out what zone you live in.

Register for the online alert system with your city.

He also suggests getting flood insurance.

“In this COVID environment, it's going to be a very, very big struggle for the local governments, so we want those citizens to take those preparedness actions now so they're not relying on that a government shelter program that is going to be ... having a hard time to coexist with COVID,” said Braidwood. “It's going to be a very difficult hurricane season for us… and it's forecasted to be a very active hurricane season, so that's something for us that we're really be mindful of and watching.”

Click here for more useful information.

Click here for full coronavirus coverage.