Hurricane Preparedness for Hilton Head Island

As I sit to write this month’s column for CH2 magazine, I can faintly hear news updates from across the room on the Weather Channel. The forecasters are talking about Tropical Storm Danny heading on a direct path toward Puerto Rico as 2015’s first major storm of the season.

Now that I’m an elected official for a community located directly on the Atlantic Coast, I’m definitely more sensitive to such news items. Public safety in the face of storms is obviously an essential component for town governments to be concerned about. Yet for some reason, perhaps because of the relatively few hurricanes that have impacted our island in the past 50 years, I have discovered that too many of my fellow Hilton Head Islanders don’t pay much attention to the annual warnings pronounced each summer by the National Weather Center during “Hurricane Preparedness Week.”

So in case you are one of those who have become dulled and complacent to such warnings—that being prepared is important for the “next big storm”—I want to use this month’s space to give you a gentle nudge that complacency is not smart.

The next six to eight weeks, September and October, have been significant months historically for Atlantic shore storms. This has been especially true along the Carolina shoreline to the north of us; and as we have seen in the past couple of years, late season storms have also become more frequent further to the north along the Maryland and Jersey shores. From what I understand, nearly every one of those storms could have deviated slightly and punched directly into Beaufort County.

Our Town Government website, www.hiltonheadislandsc.gov, has an excellent, illustrated “Hurricane Preparedness” overview as part of our Summer Newsletter, titled “Our Town“. I suggest you download the page and keep it handy for reference. Among the many good tips provided, it also includes Hilton Head’s “After Storm Contact Information Citizen Hotline” phone number. Additionally, we provide a free service for Emergency Alerts via e-mail or text.

Here are three tips that I consider quite useful:

  1. Take advantage of technology. Update your contact lists on your phone. Store your financial and other critical records “in the cloud” or on a flash drive that you take with you when evacuating. Purchase a solar powered or hand-cranked charger (they have a nice one at the Red Cross Store online). Make sure everyone in the family has a way to stay in touch.
  2. Have a “Go-Bag” ready with essentials that you will need for leaving your home quickly. Persons with medical, cognitive or sensory disabilities should talk with family members, care attendants and/or friends to come up with a plan that works for everyone. Knowing what your abilities are will help you better prepare. Each individual should have a “Go-Bag” ready that includes proper medications and appropriate medical supplies for three-five days or longer. If you have a neighbor with a disability, check and see how they are prepared, and be willing to provide help if needed.
  3. Be careful returning. If you have evacuated, be especially watchful and careful once you return home. Make sure all electrical outlets and appliances are dry and free of water before you use them. Do not drink water from the faucet until officially notified it is safe. Watch for snakes, animals and insects. They find their way to higher ground to escape flooded areas.

By being ready with emergency supplies and knowing precisely what to do if a hurricane happens to be heading our way, you and your family and friends can be safer.

You cannot fight a powerful storm, but knowledge is power too. The start of storm season should always serve as a reminder that we are not immune to the devastating effects of rain and high winds. We can all be better prepared by taking simple steps to protect our properties and those we hold dear.

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