With the record-setting 2017 hurricane season still fresh in most American’s minds, the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), in conjunction with local emergency managers, is rolling out a new hurricane and severe weather evacuation system as a result of the Maryland hurricane evacuation study which concluded earlier this year. The study identified 3 large areas in Maryland subject to tidal flooding. Know Your Zone aims to bring awareness of the evacuation zones to the forefront of Marylanders’ summer plans and make evacuation notices easier to disseminate.
“Proper and timely messaging for evacuations saves lives,” said MEMA Executive Director Russ Strickland. “This new system is designed to make it easier for local emergency managers to evacuate areas by encouraging Marylanders to Know Your Zone before a storm hits.”
The first year of the program will encourage Maryland residents to know the evacuation zone of their residence, business or vacation site. The zones are designated by letters A, B and C. Zone A areas are the most likely to be impacted by severe flooding in the event of a major storm or hurricane. In future years, the program will focus on refining evacuation routes away from the affected areas.
The three evacuation zones only affect areas subject to tidal flooding or storm surge – communities at or near the Atlantic Ocean, the Coastal Bays, and the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. That includes large portions of Dorchester County.
“We are no strangers to tidal flooding here in Dorchester, but recent experiences across the Southeast and Caribbean have demonstrated how truly devastating hurricanes and tropical storms can be. It is imperative that our residents know and understand these new evacuation zones and are prepared to take action if needed,” Dorchester County Emergency Services Director Anna Sierra said Thursday. “The Know Your Zone campaign will help us simplify the message to residents and visitors to our County in the event of an emergency. We encourage each and every resident to go to the Know Your Zone webpage, www.KnowYourZoneMd.com, to learn more about the project and find out which zone your address is in.” Director Sierra said the Zones will also be available on the Dorchester County website’s GIS viewer, and that both Emergency Services and the Department of Planning and Zoning would be working together on a public messaging campaign to get the word out. If residents do not have access to the internet, they can call the Department of Planning and Zoning at 410-228-3234 or the Department of Emergency Services at 410-228-2726 to find out what zone they are in.
If local officials feel an evacuation is needed to protect lives, they will issue the order by zones instead of having to define specific geographic areas. This program is similar to one rolled out last year in neighboring Virginia.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June to November. Hurricanes can cause strong winds, heavy rain, inland flooding and other severe weather, but residents in Maryland can be prepared by ensuring they know how to receive a warning, have a plan, practice safety tips and know their evacuation zone.
It is important to remember Maryland can see hurricanes and impacts from a storm hundreds of miles away. Hurricanes can produce 150-plus miles per hour winds, tornadoes and tremendous flooding from both tidal surges as well as torrential rain.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently released its forecast for the upcoming season and predicted near- to above-normal activity. However, it only takes one storm hitting the mid-Atlantic area to seriously affect Maryland. Residents can also take the following actions to remain safe:
- Build an emergency supply kit and develop a family emergency and communications plan.
- Stay tuned to trusted sources such as the National Weather Service and local broadcasters for official weather information.
- Follow instructions and advice given by emergency officials, especially instructions related to evacuation.
- During severe weather, stay indoors away from windows, close all interior doors, and brace external doors. If you live near the shore or coast, expect the storm tide will inundate your home.
- Monitor NWS flood warnings for your area and be prepared to seek higher ground. Flooding is often our biggest threat.
- Fill a bathtub or other large container with water for sanitary purposes such as cleaning and flushing toilets.
- Charge electronic devices before bad weather hits and consider keeping a charger in your car.
Additional preparedness information can be found on Dorchester County’s webpage under Emergency Services. Floodplain information can be found under Planning and Zoning. Residents can also download the free MARYLAND Prepares mobile app at mema.maryland.gov/Pages/mdprepares.aspx.
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This release was prepared by the Dorchester County Department of Emergency Services, 443-205-0790.