EPA prepares for 2020 hurricane season amid COVID-19

Special to Gannett
Walton Sun

As the nation continues to respond to and recover from COVID-19, Americans should also prepare for the upcoming hurricane season, which is forecast to be especially active this year.

With hurricane season beginning on June 1, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is assuring the public that the agency maintains its readiness to prepare for and respond to hurricanes amid the pandemic.

“As the country reopens, we’re facing an already active 2020 hurricane season. The Trump EPA stands ready to respond to hurricanes in a COVID-19 environment,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “In light of Tropic Storm Cristobal making landfall in Louisiana this past weekend it is important for families to think about their emergency plans now and prepare – including where and how to safely evacuate if needed. Our agency’s response to natural disasters is one of the many ways we continue to protect human health and the environment from coast to coast.”

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EPA has a major role working with federal, tribal, state, and local government partners to help communities prepare for and respond to hurricanes and other natural disasters. To adapt its preparedness and response efforts amid COVID-19, the agency will follow FEMA’s “COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season” and any relevant EPA guidance.

The agency performs pre-landfall assessments of Superfund sites and major industrial facilities to identify potential impacts and countermeasures. EPA recently issued alerts to remind facility operators of certain requirements that call for preventing, minimizing, and reporting chemical releases due to hazardous weather. Additionally, EPA supports responses before, during, and after a hurricane by conducting air monitoring, ensuring the continued operation of drinking water and wastewater systems, and managing debris and impacted infrastructure.

It is crucial for the public to prepare for hurricanes in advance, especially since COVID-19 may potentially impact hurricane planning and preparedness. Individuals should add face coverings and hand sanitizer to emergency supply kits to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, the public should re-evaluate their household evacuation and sheltering plans, ensuring the practice of social distancing and other safety measures when enacting plans. The most important thing is safety and following local officials’ guidance on evacuation, including recommendations to relocate to an inland shelter.

Always refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and FEMA for the most up-to-date guidance on COVID-19 and hurricane preparedness.

EPA's central hub for disaster and hurricane information is available at www.ready.gov/hurricanes.

For information on CDC’s COVID-19 guidance, visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

For information on FEMA’s hurricane preparedness guidance, visit www.ready.gov/hurricanes.