South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster met with Beaufort County emergency management officials Friday to discuss hurricane preparedness procedures.
McMaster made three stops along the coast throughout the day, also visiting Charleston and Georgetown counties.
After the meeting in Beaufort, McMaster and several state officials addressed reporters at the Beaufort County Emergency Operations Center and shared several lessons from Hurricane Matthew.
Be wary of social media in an emergency
McMaster warned that rumors spread over social media throughout the response to Hurricane Matthew were a concern to authorities.
“We must be aware that a lot of times social media has disinformation,” McMaster said. “Very innocent, but very harmful or even dangerous misinformation.”
Some rumors in Beaufort County during the storm included incorrect claims that the bridges to Hilton Head failed inspection and contradictory statements about when areas of the county were open for re-entry.
Evacuation compliance needs to improve
The South Carolina Emergency Management Division estimates that less than 50 percent of coastal residents in South Carolina complied with evacuation orders during Matthew, said SCEMD Director Kim Stenson.
“That’s something we also got to work on in terms of messaging to make sure that people actually get up and leave once the governor and local authorities have decided there is to be an evacuation,” Stenson said.
Clear re-entry communication is essential
The officials also stated the importance of giving a clear message on re-entry procedures.
During Matthew, many Beaufort County residents believed that, when Gov. Nikki Haley lifted statewide evacuation orders, they would be able to come home. In fact, Haley’s decision simply left it to local officials to decide how re-entry should be handled, but the distinction was lost on many residents, county officials said after the storm.
Stenson said Friday that clear messaging about what lifting the evacuation orders means will be important to get right in any future storm.