Credentials will be required to return home after evacuation

  • Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina left millions homeless but it also invited widespread looting. Williamsburg County has suffered similar disasters when citizens were required to evacuate, public safety personnel are ready once they return. However, there is always room for enhancement; one being in the form of a zone dash pass. “Because the issues of looting and other things that occurred after Katrina, a re-entry plan must be organized and must be done with proper credentials,” said Williamsburg County Emergency Management Division (EMD) Director Tiffany Cooks during a recent presentation to Kingstree Town Council. Cooks is reaching out to municipalities as well as the citizens of the county in an effort to bring awareness to several programs being implemented or updated.

A dash pass is a form of ID that contains vital information about the person. It provides law enforcement and EMS personnel instant access to the person’s address as well as other pertinent information. Therefore, when the area is cleared and it’s time to return home, for example, only citizens (and councilpersons representing their district) will be allowed in.

Law enforcement, EMS and fire department personnel have been wearing the credentials for several months. The passes are part of a mitigation plan that the Williamsburg County Emergency Management Division (EMD) is currently updating. FEMA states Mitigation Plans form the foundation for a community’s long-term strategy to reduce disaster losses and break the cycle of disaster damage, reconstruction, and repeated damage. Most counties already have the plan in place.

Cynthia B. Williams, EMD Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Coordinator urges everyone to take a moment to check the condition of their house or business numbers. “Once we have your correct address, we have your zone, we know your section, we can issue you credentials to get back, and we can identify that there was a facility - a house, a building - there was something there if the storm should wipe it out,” said Williams.

The county will begin issuing the passes August 11, with a makeup day on August 22. Citizens must provide a utility bill along with photo identification such as a driver’s license with a current address in order to be issued a pass. “We are protecting their property and their lives to avoid any looting and loss of things that they have worked so hard for,” said Williams.

Information regarding where citizens can pick up the pass will be delivered utilizing several means such as publishing in the local newspaper and through the Code Red notification system. Code Red is an automatic calling system that enables local government to send messages to residents. Citizens can sign up for the notification simply by calling the EMD agency at (843) 354-9330.

The cost to update the plan is approximately $20,000 and is mandated by FEMA according to Cooks. Grants that will assist in the cost have been applied for. Waccamaw Regional COG will also assist in updating the plan.

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