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Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - 10:45am

Chatham Drops 'Voluntary' Evacuations

Officials in coastal Chatham County say, they won't be using the term 'voluntary' during hurricane evacuations any more.

If a hurricane is coming and county officials determine that it's time to go, residents can expect to get a 'mandatory' evacuation accompanied by 'early' and 'recommended' evacuations.

'Early' would be a head-start time for people to get out quickly.

'Recommended' would be for areas potentially in danger but not in the 'mandatory' zones.

Chatham County Emergency Management Director Clayton Scott says, he wants to banish the term 'voluntary.'

"Voluntary implies that you don't have to do it," Scott says. "'Nah, it's not a big deal. We don't have to worry about it.' Whereas, in fact, what we're doing is offering people an opportunity to leave early to avoid the rush."

The county could be the first in the nation to introduce the terms 'early' and 'recommended' to increase participation and potentially save lives during an evacuation.

Scott says, he isn't aware of any other area using the terms 'early' and 'recommended.'

"To me, it's not right," Scott says. "It's not a matter of, 'If you want to, you don't have to.' It's a matter of, 'You can get out early and avoid the rush because it's dangerous.' As opposed to, 'Nah, come on. We already have steaks out already. We're going to barbecue this weekend.'"

Scott says, South Carolina is eliminating 'voluntary' in favor of going straight to 'mandatory' evacuations.

The hurricane season begins June first and runs through November.