Severe weather preparedness during COVID-19

Last April, 67 confirmed tornadoes ripped through the state of Mississippi.

As the month of April approaches, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) says it is prepared to respond to potential severe weather while combatting the pandemic of COVID-19.

Photo courtesy of TeleSouth Communication Inc.

In the event of severe weather, MEMA instructs county EMA directors to open county saferooms to ensure the safety of citizens. The agency says, while these buildings ensure the immediate safety of residents, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic response poses new challenges and considerations.

“Life safety is and should always remain your priority. Coronavirus, as serious as it is, does not trump life safety,” says MEMA Director Greg Michel.

MEMA recommends if residents are forced to shelter in place in a safe room, to maintain social distancing to the best effort possible.  If available, surgical masks should be donned as appropriate to prevent the spread of droplets due to coughing and sneezing.  County EMA directors are encouraged to ensure the availability of hand sanitizer and hand soap to maximize proper hygiene.  If cots are required, MEMA recommends using a safe distance of at least six feet between cots.  Finally, essential monitoring of the shelter population is advised to identify safe room occupants that may exhibit COVID-19 symptoms such as a fever of 100.4 or greater.

The Mississippi Department of Human Services will coordinate long-term sheltering if needed, post-event. The guidance and the recommendations from the Mississippi State Department of Health and the CDC will be followed. Social distancing in a congregate shelter will include maintaining a distance of six feet between all cots.