By Tim Smith
During my 22 years in Charleston, I have seen this tale unfold many times. A major hurricane threatens our coast and as it closes in on South Carolina, the stress level increases and borderline chaos begins. As the founder and owner of Windward Shutters, LLC I have talked with many people about their opinions of hurricanes and evacuations. I have found there are typically two groups of residents: The first, we’ll call them the “Smiths”, actually prepare in advance for what’s an almost certain major hurricane landfall. The second, we’ll call them the “Joneses”, take a few steps but don’t really have a grasp of what to expect or how optimistic they’ve been about how much they can get accomplished in a matter of days.
Once a landfall is even a possibility, the Smiths make reservations at a hotel in an area that is well inland and will not see major structural damage even if the storm follows them to their destination. They know several routes that lead to this destination. They know the hotel they’ve researched will allow the family pet. They know the cancellation policy and will cancel the reservation if evacuation becomes unnecessary.
The Smiths had hurricane protection installed on their home a few years ago and now decide it’s time to secure the house. They did a “dry run” after the install and know exactly how long it will take to secure the house. They have everything they need so this takes very little time. Once the house is secure they focus on what’s most important, leaving the danger zone.
The Smiths have, each year, taken a video inventory of their home and contents. They have copies of their insurance policies and contact information in a file with their evacuation kit. The kit includes everything they will need for the next 12 hours. They know they may be stuck in traffic in a rural area for an extended period of time. The kit includes food, water, toilet paper and a first aid kit. The kit contains a short list of everything they need to take with them- cash, photo albums, irreplaceable family heirlooms, and a list of evacuation routes. They pack the car with peace of mind and hit the road.
The Joneses have lived on the coast for a number of years and have bought batteries, duct tape and a tarp. They thought about getting shutters and even had a company quote them when they first moved. It was more than they wanted to spend and decided they would get them eventually. Their friends told them about the chaos experienced in the Hurricane Floyd debacle but they figure, now that I-26 will be reversed, the traffic won’t be a big deal. They figure they’ll deal with it if it happens. They figure they’ll find someone to put up plywood or they’ll just go to a building supply center and buy some plywood and even a ladder. They figure they’ll get the store employee to cut the plywood for them. Surely there will be enough time to get all this done and even if they can’t find help, “how hard could it be?” They eventually realize there isn’t enough time, available supplies, or resources to get the plywood on most, if any, of their windows. They see that several of their neighbors have closed up their shutters and are pulling out of the driveway and then it happens … they panic. They realize they are in the majority, unprepared for the inevitable and now sentenced to a very long trip out of town while constantly worried that their home will be damaged or destroyed. Will the insurance company pay for the damages since the plywood wasn’t installed on all the windows and doors? Will the house be there when they get back? Where will they go? Where will they live?
You will want to be a Smith when the next hurricane makes landfall on our coast. The time to prepare is today. The time to prepare is now.
Tim Smith is the president of Windward Shutters, LLC. For more info, visit windwardshutters.com or call, 881-6262 or 768-6898.Tweet