Hurricane evacuations for retirement communities present unique challenges

James Island, SC - By Tracey Amick  bio | email

JAMES ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - Hurricane season is here and that means we all need to have an evacuation plan in place, including retirement communities.

On Wednesday, Bishop Gadsden on James Island conducted an evacuation drill where residents like Leslie Jervey packed their bag and were boarded on to a bus.

"You know living 98 years I've seen them all," Jervey said. "And over the last century some hurricanes were scarier than others. Of course Hugo was the bad one I was in that, we stayed in my house on Church and Atlantic Street even that brick, it shook it."

Jervey has evacuated with her family in years past, but says now she'll go with her neighbors and staff from Bishop Gadsden.

"It's good to be with your children, but anyone who has an incapacity like I have now with my knee, it's better to be where you have professional help," Jervey said.

Sarah Tipton says the drills are important, especially for residents with special needs. They now have chairs that can easily transfer them from wheelchair onto bus.

"Some wheelchairs that can fit through the bus aisles, we actually had a ramp fabricated to get residents safely on the buses," Tipton said.

Through every evacuation they've learned lessons-especially with complications like during Floyd.

"The largest complication was the transportation and sitting on the highway for hours and hours and hours…we learned every bus has to be self-sufficient we have to have supplies for every resident on that bus," Tipton said.

While the residents are riding in the cabin up top, underneath there's food, water, clothing, medicine and even medical charts for all those on board.

Tipton says the anxiety and stress of evacuating can exacerbate every medical malady so they prepare.

"If they need oxygen they'll need more oxygen and pills for stress," Tipton said.

But the best lesson Jervey says she's learned through the years is when they say evacuate, they mean it.

"It doesn't suit you but you better wake up and do what you're told, in the long run it's the answer," Jervey said.

These retirement communities and licensed care facilities get a heads up before an evacuation is ordered- that way they can get on the road ahead of other traffic. In an evacuation, residents at Bishop Gadsden and their staff will head to Spartanburg where they have  agreements with hotels, and pharmaceutical suppliers.

©2010 WCSC. All rights reserved.