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Broward County Says It Can Handle Social Distancing At Hurricane Shelters If Needed

The 5 p.m. Thursday update for Tropical Storm Isaias
Florida Public Radio Emergency Network
The 5 p.m. Thursday update for Tropical Storm Isaias

South Florida is now under a Tropical Storm Watch as Tropical Storm Isaias approaches the state's Atlantic coast.


The National Hurricane Center is forecasting the storm could bring heavy rainfall, winds, and storm surge to Florida over the weekend.  

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WLRN spoke with Tracy Jackson, the director of regional emergency services and communications for Broward County, about the county’s preparations for this impending storm, and for any future hurricanes during the coronavirus pandemic.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 

WLRN: Is Broward County able to comply with social-distancing measures at hurricane shelters?

TRACY JACKSON: Of course, Caitie. So we automatically know whichever ones we open, we already have in mind a count that'll promote safe social distancing for the occupants as well as the staff for each of the 33 shelters that we have.Plans call for screening at the shelter entry, separate spaces for people that are obviously suffering from an influenza-like illness. A separate staff within the shelter that would be focused on cleaning up the high-touch services, as well as the staff that works doing things to keep the social distancing. It remains very much a plan in process.  


Coronavirus preparation and hurricane preparation seem to be at odds.


They're definitely at odds and it certainly has forced us to reevaluate how we would operate.


So we take that lesson from the coronavirus. We need space. We need time. And we've inserted into the hurricane thing.


Keep in mind that because of the COVID environment, there may be a little bit longer time to wait to get into a store. There may be fewer things in stores. So definitely starting early is always great. But more especially now. As a part of that preparation, everyone should always also have personal protective equipment on hand.  


People are already stressed out, juggling COVID and to think about preparing for a major storm, what would you tell residents of Broward County balancing these uncertain scenarios? 


Move things that don't need to be wet, you know, indoors or maybe back away from your front porch. You can make sure that you're not leaving anything out lying around that's of an electrical nature outside. Pull your car closer to the house if you know that's a problem or maybe leave it somewhere else if your neighborhood floods.


So those simple, common sense things that you know about your home in your neighborhood. And to do it in a way that you're not exposing yourself unduly to persons who may or may not be asymptomatic, COVID carriers.


Read more on Miami-Dade and Palm Beach County's plans for hurricane shelters during the pandemic: COVID-19 Is Rewriting Plans For Hurricane Evacuation Shelters

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Caitie Switalski is a rising senior at the University of Florida. She's worked for WFSU-FM in Tallahassee as an intern and reporter. When she's in Gainesville for school, Caitie is an anchor and producer for local Morning Edition content at WUFT-FM, as well as a digital editor for the station's website. Her favorite stories are politically driven, about how politicians, laws and policies effect local communities. Once she graduates with a dual degree in Journalism and English,Caitiehopes to make a career continuing to report and produce for NPR stations in the sunshine state. When she's not following what's happening with changing laws, you can catchCaitielounging in local coffee shops, at the beach, or watching Love Actually for the hundredth time.