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It’s hurricane season in the Lowcountry—are you prepared? Although a major hurricane hasn’t hit South Carolina since Hugo in 1989, it’s always important to remain educated and aware of the possibilities. The Charleston area sits on the coast, which means the area is at risk for hurricane attacks.

First off, let’s go over some common terminology often used:

Tropical Storm:
Once winds within a tropical system reach 39 miles per hour and the distinct low-pressure area is well defined by a rotating circulation, the system is considered a tropical storm and is given a name.

Hurricane:
A hurricane has sustained winds exceeding 74 miles per hour or greater, with dangerously high water and rough seas.

Hurricane Watch:
A hurricane watch is issued when hurricane conditions are a real possibility for an area within 24 to 36 hours.

Hurricane Warning:
A hurricane warning is issued when a hurricane is expected within 24 hours. Begin precautionary action at once.

Before the storm:

Before there is even any talk of a hurricane, take the following into consideration:

Check into flood insurance:
Contact your home insurance agent and consider getting flood insurance even if it’s not required for your home’s location. There is normally a 30-day waiting period before a new flood insurance policy becomes effective for an existing residence. Sometimes that waiting period is longer during hurricane season. However, with flood insurance, homeowner polices typically do not cover damage from the flooding that accompanies a hurricane.

Develop an emergency communication plan:
In case family members are separated from one another during a disaster, which is realistic especially during the day with work and school, create a plan for getting back together.

Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the “family contact.” After a disaster, it’s often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, phone number and e-mail address of the contact person.

Teach everyone how to respond:
Teach each family member how and when to turn off gas, electricity and water. Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1, police, or the fire department and which radio station to listen to for emergency information.

Create an emergency supplies kit:
Take your safety and security into your owns hands. Use this list to gather resources and materials.

Because deployment of relief supplies and support to affected communities can be delayed or prevented due to damaged or impassable bridges and roads, assistance from emergency services may not be available for up to 72 hours, or longer, following a major natural disaster.

Prepare your home:
Once a tornado, hurricane or major storm hits, it’s too late to protect your home and property, but there are preparations you can make in advance to limit future wind and flood damage. Some are fairly simple and inexpensive; others will require a contractor.

You’ll need to consider the characteristics of your home, your financial resources and the building codes in your community. View this suggested list to start preparing now.


During a Hurricane Watch:


A Hurricane Watch is issued when hurricane conditions are a real possibility for an area within 24-36 hours.

  • Review your family disaster plan and check your Emergency Supplies Kit to include food and water supplies.
  • Review evacuation plans. Learn safe routes inland and plan your evacuation route. Be ready to drive 20 to 50 miles inland to locate a safe place.
  • Make sure the gas tank in your car is full.
  • Make arrangements for pets, and identify pet-friendly hotels if you plan to evacuate
  • Refill prescription medications.
  • Anchor or stow small boats.
  • Bring in outdoor objects such as lawn furniture, toys and garden tools; anchor objects that cannot be brought inside.
  • Remove outside antennas.
  • Secure buildings by closing and boarding up windows.
  • Turn refrigerator and freezer to coldest settings. Open only when absolutely necessary and close quickly.
  • Store drinking water in jugs, bottles and clean bathtubs.
  • Trim dead or weak branches from trees.
  • Stay tuned to local media and your Weather Alert Radio for updates on the storm.

During a Hurricane Warning:

A Hurricane Warning is issued when a hurricane is expected within 24 hours. Begin precautionary action at once.

  • Store valuables such as jewelry, silverware, photos and scrapbooks in a safe place such as a waterproof container on the highest level of your home.
  • Park your car in a sheltered area or on high ground.
  • Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for official instructions.
  • Evacuate if the order is given.
  • If you must stay at home, stay inside away from windows, skylights and glass doors.
  • Keep a supply of flashlights and extra batteries. Avoid using open flames, such as candles and kerosene lamps, as a source of light.
  • If power is lost, turn off major appliances to reduce power “surge” when electricity is restored.

 

If officials order an evacuation:

  • Leave as soon as possible. Avoid flooded roads and watch for washed-out bridges.
  • Secure your home by unplugging appliances and turning off electricity and the main water valve.
  • Tell someone outside of the storm area where you are going.
  • If time permits, and you live in an identified surge zone, elevate furniture to protect it from flooding, or move it to a higher floor.
  • Bring your pre-assembled Emergency Supplies Kit.
  • Bring blankets and sleeping bags if you are going to a shelter.
  • Lock your home and leave.

When it’s time to evacuate:

“Move from the water, and brace for the wind”

If you are advised to evacuate your home and move to a safe, temporary location, there are a few things you should remember:

  • Follow the instructions and advice of your local government. If you are advised to evacuate, do so promptly. If certain travel routes are specified or recommended, use those routes. Once an order is given you may not be allowed to select your route. If you plan to leave, leave early.
  • Travel considerations:
  1. Before leaving your residence, prepare your family Emergency Supplies
  2. Kit (see page 8 for list of supplies) and take it with you in the car.
  3. Leave well in advance to avoid being affected by flooding roads, fallen trees or power lines.
  4. Make sure the gas tank in your car is full, and listen to the radio as you travel for additional information and instructions from emergency officials.
  5. Make sure you have a South Carolina highway map in your vehicle.
  6. Evaluate and be prepared to use parallel routes out of the community – this may include smaller roads that run parallel to the interstates and other
  7. highways.
  8. If you must travel with more than one vehicle, plan to leave early to avoid traffic.
  • When an emergency is declared and an evacuation order is announced, designated shelters are opened and operated by the American Red Cross and announced on local radio and television stations.
  •  While shelters are available in a hurricane situation, there is not enough shelter space in Charleston County for all citizens. Therefore, officials urge citizens to use alternative housing options, such as traveling to a friend’s or relative’s inland home or to a motel. And remember, even inland shelters and motels may experience loss of electrical power. Take your Emergency Supplies Kit with you.
  • A shelter should be considered a last resort to use if you have nowhere else to get out of harms way. Citizens who go to a shelter are asked to bring blankets and pillows, some food for the first day and any necessary medications and supplies. It is highly recommended citizens bring their Emergency Supplies Kit.


After the storm:

Stay tuned to local media for information. Return home only after authorities advise that it is safe to do so.

  • Enter your home with caution.
  • Avoid loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to the power company, police or fire department.
  • Beware of snakes, insects and other animals driven to higher ground, such as inside your home, by flood water.
  • Open windows and doors to ventilate and dry your home.
  • Check the refrigerator for spoiled foods.
  • Take pictures of the damage, both to the house and its contents, for insurance claims.
  • Drive only if absolutely necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed-out bridges.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbor’s home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.
  • Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice.
  • Check for sewage and water line damage. If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water faucets.

A complete Hurricane Guide can be downloaded and printed off from your home, courtesy of Charleston County.

Important Phone Numbers:

Charleston County
Emergency Preparedness Division
(843) 202 – 7400

Charleston County Building Services
(Preparing Your Home and Flood Zone Information)
(843) 202 – 6930

Disabilities Resource Center
(Mobility Issues Assistance)
(843) 225 – 5080

S.C. Department of Health and
Environmental Control
(Medical Needs Assistance)
(843) 953 – 2450

American Red Cross:
Carolina Lowcountry Chapter
(843) 764 – 2323

S.C. Department of Transportation
(Evacuation Traffic Information)
(888) 877- 9151

Charleston County Emergency
Citizen’s Information Line
(Open only during Emergency Operation Center Activation)
(843) 202 – 7100

Charleston County Emergency
Citizen’s Information Line – Spanish
(Open only during Emergency Operation Center Activation)
(843) 202 – 7191

Charleston County Emergency
Citizen’s Information Line – TTY
(Open only during Emergency Operation Center Activation)
(843) 202 – 7190

 

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