By Joe Stubel for The Island Connection
June 1 has come and gone and a new hurricane season is officially here. Despite the lack of serious storm activity in recent years, that could quickly and dramatically change. Kiawah and Seabrook and the surrounding Lowcountry may be some of the most beautiful places to live on the eastern seaboard, but they are also some of the most vulnerable to coastal storms and rough weather. The key to surviving these perilous events of course is to be prepared. In this article we detail several important and useful steps to take in advance of a severe storm, many of which you can start to do right now.
• Having your evacuation plan in place starting with following the instructions and advice of local government. The South Carolina Division of emergency management can be reached at 803.737.8500/or www.scemd.org for information. Other important numbers include:
• 843.202.7400 Charleston County Emergency Preparedness
• 843.764.2323 American Red Cross Lowcountry chapter (includes shelter information)
• 843.202.7100 Charleston County Emergency Citizens Information line
• Developing an emergency communication plan with family members and loved ones. Have a trusted family friend serve as a single contact point for all.
• Preparing a family emergency supplies kit that includes adequate food and water for a minimum of 3 days, flashlights with extra batteries, battery powered radio with additional batteries, map of the area, first aid kit, prescription medications, emergency cash supply, rain gear, etc.
• Make sure your house is prepared before you leave including double doors secured at the top and bottom, windows protected by storm shutters or 5/8 inch thick plywood, ensure the electrical panel, outlets switches as well as washer, dryer, furnace and water heater are all located at least 12 inches above projected flood elevation.
• Make sure your gas tank is full and listen to your radio for information and updated instructions as you leave your home.
• Have your evacuation route plan in place.
Evacuees from Johns Island, Kiawah Island and Seabrook will use SC 700 and Secondary Road 20 (Bohicket Road) to US 17. They will then take US 17 south to SC 64. SC 64 will take them to Walterboro and eventually to Augusta.
For additional transportation information including disability and pet transportation call 843.202.7100.
The Charleston County Hurricane Preparedness Guide (available online www.charlestoncounty.org) provides detailed information on all of the above and more when planning for emergencies and severe weather.
At a recent Disaster Preparedness Expo Sasha Vargasfimiani and Amanda Smith, representatives of Charleston County Consolidated 911 call center, provided details of enhanced emergency services that could prove critical during a storm, including:
• Citizen Alert Notification System: a powerful tool that allows Charleston County to quickly send mass notification updates before, during and after an emergency incident. To sign up, go to the Charleston County website and click on the ‘Alert’ banner.
• Smart911: a system that allows citizens to create a safety profile of valuable information for family members (including pets). This insures that 9-1-1 call takers and first responders are well informed prior to emergency services arrival. To sign up visit www.smart911.com. Again, having this in place before an emergency event occurs will help make sure you are effectively prepared and provide a little peace of mind during potentially stressful situations.
Social media can also provide critical and up to date information from your mobile devices. Many local authorities have Twitter accounts and disseminate information through this medium. Go to twitter.com to sign up for an account and follow local organizations including: @chscounty, @scdotlowcountry, @chascosheriff, @hurricanealerts, @chswx, @townofkiawahsc, @kiawahresort, @seabrooksc. Finally, additional information is also available from FEMA (www.ready.gov, @femaregion4).
Take the time to prepare now, while doing so is relatively easy. Accessing the aforementioned resources will help make sure you are ready for whatever Mother Nature sends our way. Now is the time to get your plan in place.