Charleston County leaders take first step toward safer hurricane shelters

VIDEO: Charleston County leaders take first step toward safer hurricane shelters

CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - A plan to use schools in Dorchester County School District 2 schools for hurricane shelters is one step closer to reality.

The Charleston County Council Finance Committee passed the first reading of the measure Thursday night, according to county spokesman Shawn Smetana. The plan will next go to the full council, he said.

The county began considering options after recent calculations concluded all previously designated locations within Charleston County are not safe if a hurricane reaches Category 3 or stronger.

The Red Cross has a set standard within a six-page document that classifies which buildings can and cannot be used as hurricane shelters. Two of the main components they look at are the proximity to the water and the wind load. Jerry Zucker Middle School is one of the locations previously used as a hurricane shelter that they have now determined is not safe during a category 3 hurricane because of the wind load.

During Hurricane Dorian, officials say they experienced not only a lack of options but serious overcrowding and overuse of resources.

“It was an issue the last time we had an emergency,” Councilman Herbert Sass said. “We had to transport some people further out of town, and so that means they are on the road longer. It costs more money to transport them. It costs more money for them to get up there if they are driving their own car to the shelters.”

If passed, it will be heard by the Charleston County Council. They are looking to solidify plans before the start of the upcoming hurricane season.

Council members also say they play to look at the cost, if any, that could fall on DD2 schools.

“If they can’t get to the shelter, they aren’t going to go,” Sass said. “If they don’t go to the shelter, something bad could happen to them. When people don’t have a safe place to stay in a hurricane they need to go somewhere. We want to encourage them to go someplace safe. So we don’t want them to be in harms way.”

The Red Cross would also like to remind people that shelters do come as a last resort, and it is best to evacuate on your own if you can.

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