Published 1:16 am Monday, June 12, 2006
Coastal areas not the only hurricane-prone areas
While many of us are stocking up on bottled water and batteries for our own hurricane contingencies, county officials are working together on plans to protect all of us.
With a new emergency management director in place, county officials have been working on a variety of issues - including how best to shelter residents and evacuees in the event of a strong storm hitting the county.
But few - if any - buildings are rated to withstand a Category 3 or above, so county officials have a dilemma when it comes to housing people if a strong of that magnitude is headed our way.
No rating doesn't mean those buildings can't withstand the storms - but it's difficult, not to mention expensive, to get someone to evaluate the structures.
And without the rating, that's a lot of liability to assume if people are housed in a structure that sustains severe damage.
What's the solution?
County officials are considering ways to pay for evaluation of shelter facilities, but that's an expensive proposition.
They are also considering whether they will have to name a “shelter of last resort” in the event we are in the path of a strong hurricane.
But it also makes sense that new construction of public buildings should incorporate building codes that allow the facilities to withstand strong storms.
Grant funding for such projects is not unheard of - at least not on the coast.
Some coastal areas have received funding to pay for architects to rate their buildings and advise how to shore them up. Baldwin County even recently received partial funding to make sure its proposed new convention center is safe enough to hold thousands of people during a Category 5 hurricane.
Escambia County may not be located on the coast, but we have certainly felt the impact from massive storms - and we end up sheltering not only our own residents but those from the coast as well.
County officials are doing their part to come up with the best plan possible to shelter or evacuate residents in the event of a massive storm.
We need state and federal officials to recognize that coastal communities are not the only areas affected by hurricanes. As the current cycle of strong storms continues, we can expect to be in their destructive path for years to come.
Of course it's more important to make sure the coast is protected - but the coast is not the only place that feels the brunt of the storm.
Just as our county officials are looking to protect all of us, state and federal officials need to look beyond the coast when they consider how best to prepare the region for hurricanes.