Agencies come together to prepare for disasters - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Agencies come together to prepare for disasters

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - The Northeast South Carolina Integrated Warning Team held its first meeting Tuesday, symbolizing stronger communication during emergencies.

"It's just very, very important when there's an ice storm or a hurricane threatening that we're all on the same page, that we can paint that picture to the public of what to expect regarding hazards," said Steven Pfaff, National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist.

Representatives from the National Weather Service in Wilmington used to meet separately with agencies to talk about how to handle emergencies. The Integrated Warning Team is now bringing those groups to one place to discuss various topics. Tuesday's conversations ranged from accommodating the deaf and hard of hearing while warning about natural disasters to handling social media.

"Communication seems to be the biggest pitfall that we have because it's changing and not everybody is in the loop and that's the intent is to get everybody in the loop," Pfaff said.

In addition to county and municipal representatives, schools, fire departments, hospital and military personnel are also part of the team.

"As we get ready for hurricane season, it's good to conduct this type of meeting now so we know who's on the other end of the phone," said Derrec Becker, public information officer for the South Carolina Emergency Management Division.

Pfaff said the level of preparedness in communities changes with population and also depends on how long it's been since certain types of natural disasters.

"Something like a Hurricane Hugo where it's been a couple decades now, I think we're going to have to relearn some of those lessons unfortunately unless we continue to push awareness and have venues like this," he said.

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