Columbia County has 21 certified public shelters that can provide refuge to those who are displaced if disaster strikes.
County officials are looking to add at least five more shelters.
"We had one (facility) that recently came off the list," said the county's Emergency and Operations Division director, Pam Tucker. "It just gave us an opportunity to look and evaluate the total number."
Patriots Park near Grovetown, Eubank Blanchard Community Center in Appling, 12 schools and seven churches serve as the county's shelters and can accommodate 5,700 people.
The county activated the shelters for coastal evacuees during Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Tucker said.
Because school is typically in session at the height of hurricane season, churches are ideal shelters, Tucker said.
"They make really good shelters, because most churches now have the family life centers ... and just all the amenities that are required," such as showers, kitchens and large, open areas, she said.
Wesley United Methodist Church became a certified shelter more than five years ago, Senior Pastor Greg Porterfield said.
"When we built the addition to our building, we built it with the idea that it would be a shelter in time of emergency," he said.
During Katrina, about 20 evacuees stayed at the Evans church.
"It was moving," Porterfield said. "They were there and came to worship with us and shared their experiences."
A certified pet shelter at the Columbia County Fairgrounds on Columbia Road is available to domestic animals and livestock that are displaced.
Tucker said Columbia County is one of the few counties with a certified pet shelter approved by the Georgia Department of Agriculture.
"We've never had to use it yet, but hardly a year goes by that we don't at least get put on standby," Tucker said.
In order to become a certified shelter, Tucker said, a facility must be surveyed by the county's Health Department and Department of Family and Children Services, along with the American Red Cross, which provides funding for the shelters.
It also is preferable for a facility to have its own generator, she added.
"Most of the time, you don't ever have to open all of them, but this is just to have them certified and at the ready just in case," she said.
For information about a facility becoming a certified public shelter, call Tucker at (706) 868-3303.
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