Based on the most recent forecasts from the National Weather Service, it looks like our conference will be heavily impacted. At 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency in six coastal Georgia counties: Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty and McIntosh. Today he expanded his emergency declaration to include 24 additional counties, with a total of 30 counties now included in a state of emergency. Gov. Deal also issued a mandatory evacuation order for all areas east of I-95, all of Chatham County, and some areas west of I-95 that could be impacted by potential storm surge from Hurricane Irma.
Our conference leadership met today and discussed our current protocols and ways we are already looking ahead in our response. The latest disaster response information will be posted at www.sgaumc.org/disasterresponse.
The Conference Disaster Response Team is monitoring this storm closely. Here are some things to be aware of as we navigate the days ahead.
Keeping in Contact
We have asked pastors who are impacted to contact their District Superintendent to let he or she know of the condition of your community, church, and immediate needs. The District Superintendent will then be in contact with the Conference Disaster Response team, who will be coordinating our conference-wide response.
Storm Updates: Reliable storm updates can be found at the NOAA Hurricane Center website, http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/.
Ready Georgia Mobile App: A great resource to stay connected is the Ready Georgia mobile app, http://ready.ga.gov/be-informed/alerts-and-warnings/mobileapp/. This includes shelter maps, ready kit, alerts, and an I AM SAFE feature which notifies your emergency contacts that you are safe after an emergency.
Things to Do Now
For those in the path of Hurricane Irma, we offer the following information to help you as you prepare to evacuate.
The Red Cross provides information on personally preparing for a disaster. For more information, visit www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies.
Our friends in the Alabama-West Florida Conference, who have been through this before, share the following helpful information in regards to preparation if you are having to evacuate:
Back up your church and home systems (computers, databases, etc.) onto devices that can be taken with you should you need to evacuate, or to a location that will not be affected by the storms.
Protect your electronic devices, sensitive equipment, musical instruments, organs, pianos, etc. Covering them with a tarp or plastic sheeting will protect them from roof leaks that might occur. Any equipment that can be elevated at least four inches off the floor will help prevent damage if waters do get into the building. Many computer towers sit on the floor under desks….put them up on the desk if you can.
Take pictures of your facility, electronics, equipment, etc., for insurance purposes. Make sure these pictures are backed up/stored in a safe place.
Protect your records and historical documents (technical drawings, pictures, paper files). Placing them in sealable, waterproof plastic bags within a safe or file cabinet will help if you cannot relocate them to a safe place.
Verify that there is a contact list for all facility personnel, neighbors, family, etc. Make sure someone checks on shut-ins – are there plans for family members to care for them or evacuate them if necessary?
Additionally, this is a good time to check on your neighbors and let them know that they do not need to weather the storms of life alone. There will be great opportunity to serve people who are directly impacted by this storm, including evacuees.
Our churches have been overwhelming in their generosity in collecting hygiene kits and cleaning kits. I encourage you to continue to put these together. They will be needed in the weeks and months ahead. Our original plan was to send these kits to the Texas area. In conversation with UMCOR, our conference is in place to serve as a staging location for the distribution of supplies not only for South Georgia, but surrounding Conferences if and when needed. When it is safe to travel you can continue to drop relief kits off at the churches listed here.
We have a list of churches that have opened as shelters to those being displaced because of Hurricane Irma. View the list here. If your church has opened as a shelter, please contact Allison Lindsey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 912-393-5524 so that we can get your church added to the list.
Early Response Teams
We will be disseminating information as to if and when Early Response Teams are needed as soon as we can. These teams work in coordination with county Emergency Management officials and local disaster response groups. They will be activated as soon as it is necessary and safe to do so.
If you are not able to be with your community of faith for Sunday worship services, several of our churches use technology and will offer you a community within our connection to come together as the body of Christ during this time.