Imagine being in Hurricane Florence’s path without the means or ability to heed mandatory evacuation orders. What would you do?
This is the situation many people find themselves in as the Category 3 storm nears landfall. Some people could be experiencing homelessness, or they may not have access to a vehicle. Or they have medical conditions that prevent them from jumping into a car and heading to the nearest emergency shelter.
Here’s what’s being done to assist those who need help being evacuated.
The homeless and those without secure housing
Most local year-round shelters closed as soon as mandatory evacuation orders were issued because they are not equipped to withstand a Category 3 hurricane. Those service providers helped transport residents to emergency shelters and provided them with basic supplies, such as food and bedding, said Cecelia Peers with the Cape Fear Council of Governments in North Carolina.
Up until the last minute, they continue to engage people on the street and urge them to seek shelter, providing transportation and supplies, said Peers, also a state Homeless Continuum of Care administrator.
One80 Place, a service provider in Charleston, South Carolina, said it has relocated dozens of people to Red Cross shelters. The organization also arranged transportation for people with family or friends in other parts of the state, and provided meals and supplies.
Some people are brought to special medical needs shelters if they require more care than what’s available at a general population shelter, but their condition is not severe enough for a hospital stay. Spots in these facilities are extremely limited and authorities urge the public to think of them as a “shelter of last resort.”
Getting to shelters can be a challenge for those without a car in the affected areas. Where public transportation exists, municipalities are using it to help people reach shelters.
Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority is offering limited regular service as well as an “emergency circulator” on the Charleston Peninsula until 9 p.m. Wednesday. It brings riders to the Charleston County Public Service Building, where additional transportation to shelters will be provided, based on occupancy.
CARTA’s website encourages riders to call the Charleston County Emergency Public Information Line at 843-746-3900 with any questions.
People with medical conditions
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued a mandatory medical evacuation order for health care facilities licensed by the state in certain evacuation zones. As of Wednesday, more than 1,700 people had been evacuated from health care facilities along the coast.
Some facilities, including major hospitals, meeting certain requirements received an exemption from the order. Patients from evacuated facilities – mainly nursing home and rehabilitation centers – were transported to those facilities.
Others patients likely went to special medical needs shelters. Spots in these shelters are reserved for people who are medically stable but have conditions that require electricity support or use of a specialized medical bed or hospital bed.
Service animals are allowed in these shelters, and patients are allowed to bring one caretaker.