In a recent exclusive interview with Axios, FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor revealed that the organisation has had to adjust its hurricane preparedness measures as a result of the COVID-19 virus. His comments came during National Hurricane Preparedness Week, which was held from May 3 – 9, 2020.
One of the new measures introduced was the COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for 2020 Hurricane Season. This will be a useful tool that will allow FEMA’s newly created National Response Coordination Center to better manage disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires and COVID-19.
The truth is that the COVID-19 virus has placed the United States and the Caribbean in a precarious position with the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Behind the scenes, Gaynor is battling new issues, which have never been seen before. Some of the priority concerns highlighted in the interview include:
- How to effect evacuations and maintain social distancing protocols;
- How many additional shelters are needed to avoid overcrowding;
- What steps can be taken to protect the elderly and vulnerable;
- Will there be enough resources to satisfy emergency needs.
Gaynor further explained that because of COVID-19, key hurricane preparedness measures such as evacuations must be revisited. He elaborated on a possible situation, where patients in a hospital must be evacuated. In a normal situation, the focus would be on getting the patients to safety. However, in a COVID-19 world, evacuations mean that COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients, ventilators and pharmaceuticals must all be moved. Additionally, a further consideration is finding facilities that can accommodate the needs of COVID-19 patients.
Unfortunately, the 2020 tropical storm forecasts of an active season, do not bring any comfort to FEMA’s response teams. However, Gaynor remains confident that he and his team can manage an above-average storm season with their hurricane preparedness measures.