The summer often brings severe weather events—heavy rain, thunder, lighting, tropical storms, hurricanes. With this in mind, the City of Hartsville takes steps to try to protect citizens and necessary infrastructure in case of inclement weather. The Hartsville Fire Department is an integral part in keeping people safe during emergencies.

The Fire Department, located on the corner of Marlboro and Seventh Street, houses Hartsville’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC). During times of crisis, the EOC allows City officials and first responders to form strategies, assess potential and sustained damages, and discover solutions. During Hurricane Matthew, firefighters and City leaders spent three to four days at the EOC to solve problems that arose after the storm: fallen power lines and trees, blocked roads, losses of power and water. Since Matthew, there has been new citywide training for storm responses, to make the efficiency of our City staff and authorities even better. Collectively, we have updated our Emergency Operations Plan and are applying for grant funding that would provide the City with more generators for critical sites, like our wells and lift station facilities, designed to move wastewater from lower to higher elevation.

Sometimes we can see severe weather advancing. This gives our firefighters, police officers and Public Service crews time to prepare, to make sure supplies and personnel are all in place and ready for whatever needed. Other times, damaging weather arrives seemingly out of nowhere, as it did July 21, 2015, two years ago. That day heavy rains and unusually strong winds descended on Hartsville unexpectedly. Firefighters worked long into the night helping those affected by the storm. From 7 p.m. that evening to 2 a.m., the Hartsville Fire Department responded to 42 storm-related calls. The Hartsville Fire Department also assisted City Public Service crews and volunteers, and provided site evaluation for their work.

At times when weather brings unexpected consequences, residents should have comfort in knowing there is a trained team of public servants ready to help. However, I would also urge citizens to take small steps to ensure their own safety. Stay prepared by staying mindful. Watch the weather, subscribe to weather services that provide updates or check the weather regularly on television or the radio. Most importantly, residents should resist the urge to go out during severe weather. Do not go sightseeing or storm-chasing. Listen to authorities, stay indoors and be safe.

Soon it will be the height of hurricane season, bringing the need to maintain emergency supplies ahead of a power outage or road closure. Whatever comes this summer and beyond, the Hartsville Fire Department is on your side ready to serve the community.

Jeff Burr is the Fire Chief of the Hartsville Fire Department