Gov. Tate Reeves, along with FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor; MEMA Executive Director Greg Michel; and Hancock County EMA Director Brian Adam on Thursday spoke about the state’s preparedness for hurricane season at Waveland’s Ground Zero Hurricane Museum.
“I think we can all say that if we look back at 2020, if we think there’s a possibility that something bad may happen, it’s probably pretty likely that it will happen,” Reeves said. “Having Administrator Gaynor and his team here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is a really big deal for out state. It certainly shows their commitment and the federal government’s commitment to working with us and dealing with the challenges we face.”
Reeves said that the “model of disaster preparedness that works best in America” is that natural disasters must be “state managed, locally executed, and federally resourced.”
Gaynor said that it’s important to continue to “embrace the lessons learned during Katrina.”
“And recovery continues on the Gulf Coast in Mississippi, so that we have that to contend with also,” Gaynor said. “Many challenges remain and I think that’s just the nature of the disaster business.”
Gaynor said that there are currently other challenges that “continue to complicate the landscape.”
“So not just hurricane season, not just recovery, but response to COVID-19,” he said. “And we continue to deal with COVID-19 in Mississippi and across the country. And combined with hurricane season, recovery, it just makes it a little more complicated. Not impossible, but more complicated.”
In an effort to assist state partners, Gaynor said, FEMA developed a COVID-19 operational guide for the 2020 hurricane season, which can be downloaded at www.fema.gov. The guide was put out nationwide, he said.
“The lessons of COVID-19 apply to most natural hazards,” Gaynor said. “We are encouraging all levels of government to embrace those guidelines.”
With regards to sheltering, there will be a need for more square footage in order to execute social distancing, Gaynor said.
“You’re going to need more time, because you’re not going to be able to transport the amount of people that you would on a school bus,” he said. “If you needed one school bus, you’re going to need two. We encourage everyone to do that planning today.”
Gaynor said that the “most important part” of response and recovery is the individual.
“You have to prepare individually, you have to prepare your businesses, your neighborhoods, your communities, all those things need to happen,” Gaynor said. “Don’t waste time.”
Gaynor said that he is also a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
“It’s simple things that you must do, social distancing,” he said. “Wearing masks, washing your hands, staying away from large groups. Those (large groups) are the things that make community spread worse. Simple things, they work.”
To close, Gaynor said that when it comes to disasters, “don’t wait.”
“Are you ready for the next hurricane, the next tornado, the next COVID outbreak?” Gaynor said.
Michel said that “we’ve certainly not seen the worst of this hurricane season.”
“If the statistics are right and the data is right, we could very well be in for a rough ride this year,” Michel said.
Michel stressed the importance of maintaining a sense of awareness during hurricane season.
MEMA’s hurricane preparedness guide can be viewed at www.msema.org.
Reeves said that local leaders “make the difference,” when it comes to preparedness.
Adam said that “we are fortunate in Hancock County.”
“All the cities and the county work together and I’m very blessed to have the local leadership work a unified command,” Adam said. “What I mean by that is that we make all our decisions as one group. When we do evacuation orders, we make it as one. If the county does it, the cities are doing it.”