Hartsville leaders make changes after evaluating response to Hurricane Matthew

HARTSVILLE, SC (WBTW) – The City of Hartsville is preparing for training drills and just completed applying for a number of grants after city leaders evaluated their response to Hurricane Matthew.

During severe storms and hurricanes, the Hartsville Fire Department becomes the emergency operations command center. When Hurricane Matthew swept through Darlington, trees were knocked down and many in the community were without power.

Hartsville Fire Chief Jeff Burr says the city is learning from the storm.

“We did have problems but we came together as a team,” recalls Chief Burr. “We overcame them. Now we are taking it back [and saying] ‘let’s try not to make the same mistakes.’”

The city started with simplifying the emergency operations plan.

“When you get law enforcement, fire, and public works going to the same location, we might not need everybody [there],” says Chief Burr. “So, we are kind of splitting up the city into three sectors and spreading our people out. Now they will be closer to different areas.”

The city is also applying for a $360,000 FEMA grant to purchase backup generators for city wells or pump stations.

“We lost power and when you lose power you can’t get your water like you need,” says Chief Burr. “That’s one of the things we are working diligently with FEMA.”

The department also applied for the Georgia-Pacific Bucket Grant. If awarded, the grant money will be used by the EOC to buy six new laptops.

“That’s a tool that we can use at the EOC here to better document everything,” explains Chief Burr. “Paperwork is documentation to get paid or reimbursed by FEMA.”

Chief Burr says the next step to improving Hartsville’s response to damaging storms or hurricanes includes drills for the city to practice the new emergency operations plan.