HOLMES AND WASHINGTON COUNTIES - As local emergency responders prepare to be on heightened alert to protect and assist Holmes and Washington County residents during and after Hurricane Irma passes though the area, Emergency Management Officials are advising of measures to also keep those responders safe.

"When sustained winds reach 45 mph, emergency responders will be pulled off roadways until conditions are safe for them to be out," Holmes County Emergency Management Director Wendy Mayo. "We want everyone to be safe."

Washington County Sheriff Kevin Crews states while emergency response won't be completely pulled, it will be "severely limited."

"We will have to use good judgment during this time to protect not only our citizens, but our emergency responders as well," said Sheriff Crews. "Obviously, if someone is in a life or death situation, we are going to do everything we can to help."

Emergency Management officials urge ask not to venture out into the storm and urge those who live in mobile homes, RVs, unsafe structures, or low-lying flood prone areas to go to one of the provided risk shelters.

Those taking shelter at one of the provided locations are asked to understand these shelters are not for comfort, but rather a "last resort" option. Residents seeking shelter are asked to bring bedding, personal hygiene items, snacks, and personal medications.

Questions or concerns can be directed to Holmes County Emergency Management at 850-547-1112 or Washington County Emergency Management at 850-638-6203.

Currently, the following shelters will be open to local residents beginning at 5 p.m. Sunday:

GENERAL POPULATION:

New Hope Fire Department, located at 1969 Highway 2 in Westville

Roulhac Middle School, located at 1535 Brickyard Road in Chipley

SPECIAL NEEDS:

Poplar Springs School, located at 3726 Atomic Drive in Graceville

Roulhac Middle School 5th Grade Wing (Building 12), located at 1535 Brickyard Road in Chipley

None of the local shelters can accept any animals other than service animals.

Other shelters which are not slated to open at this time but are on standby are:

HOLMES COUNTY

Bonifay K-8 School (general population)

WASHINGTON COUNTY

Chipley High School (789 capacity)

Vernon Middle School (1204 capacity)

Vernon High School (1547 capacity)

Look for updates on shelter openings at chipleypaper.com and on the Washington County News/Holmes County Times-Advertiser Facebook page