June 12, 2019, Hilton Head Island, SC – The past two years have tested and strengthened the Town’s preparations, policies and procedures during these weather events. Town staff has prepared checklists below to further educate the public about the lessons learned, critical incident best practices and areas in which the Town needs further participation to mitigate any further damages and issues which hurricanes can bring.
Scott Chandler is Bluffton’s emergency manager and a captain in the Bluffton Police Department.
“Until Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, Bluffton had not been affected by a hurricane in nearly 60 years,” Chandler said. “In the past two years, Bluffton has confronted four named storms, with Hurricanes Matthew and Irma leaving property damage to our area. The more we communicate and the more we work together with every member of our community, we increase the probability of better weathering these events and reducing the probability of property and personal damage.”
Town Manager Marc Orlando said Hurricanes Matthew, Irma, Florence and Michael have helped town staff refine and strengthen the town’s response plans and procedures for all critical incidents, but especially with regard to hurricanes and other weather events.
“We plan our work and we work our plans,” Orlando said. “However, our plans are only successful if we have the collaboration of our residents, property owners’ associations and business owners. We are providing checklists to strengthen our response to storms and our relationships with these partners. We are in this together and we need everyone’s cooperation to make these weather events as safe and uneventful as possible.”
The checklists below detail several actions in which every resident can participate to help in the community’s overall safety and recovery. One action crucial to reducing flooding opportunities is to check every outdoor pipe, ditch and storm drain to ensure there are no visible blockages.
“Every pipe, ditch and storm drain is a part of the stormwater infrastructure and each one needs a set of eyes on it,” Watershed Management Division Manager Kim Jones said. “Any obstruction can cause a domino effect of flooding and that could result in damage to your house, your street or your property. Every resident is encouraged to help in this effort and ensure any ditch, pipe or drain near his or her property is clear of any obstruction.”
Orlando said the past four storms have taught our community many lessons and he hopes these lessons and perspectives make each resident and collectively, the town, better prepared to face any future storms.
“The Town has fared well during the last two years of storms,” Orlando said. “However, each storm has given us the opportunity to become more organized and effective in our community approach to any critical incident. We are in this together and I thank every resident who has helped in the past and takes the time to prepare for each storm we may face in the future.”
How to Personally Prepare:
- The South Carolina Emergency Management Division Hurricane Guide has details about personal plans, zones, emergency shelters and links to other agencies and information. https://scemd.org/stay-informed/publications/hurricane-guide/
- Sign up to receive all of the Town of Bluffton’s media releases and public notices: https://www.townofbluffton.sc.gov/subscribe-to-our-mailing-list
- Follow the Town of Bluffton and Bluffton Police Department on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
- Use the Beaufort County Hurricane Hotline for updated information. The phone number is 1-800-963-5023. There is a specific mailbox for Bluffton updates and is available during a hurricane. This phone number is especially useful if you have evacuated.
- Remember the 5 P’s: People (Pets), Prescriptions, Paper (i.e. Important documents), Personal Needs (i.e. medication, etc.), Priceless Items (i.e. pack your photos albums, etc.) and have a plan for each category.
- Make a paper record of all your contact information for your family and friends in case there is no cell phone service.
- Take photos of your property and home before and after the storm for insurance documentation.
- Secure any loose articles (i.e. outdoor furniture, potted plants or décor items) on your property that has the potential to become airborne and cause damage, or block pipes or ditches.
- Know your evacuations options and pre-plan possible routes and hotels or housing arrangements.
- If you own a pet, know which hotels accept pets during a hurricane.
- Have a supply of medications before you travel.
- Conduct inspections of drainage features around your house and property including gutters and remove any blockages.
- Turn off irrigation systems.
- Remove items which may hold water to deter mosquito breeding after the storm passes.
- Obtain flood insurance now. Most homeowner insurance policies do not cover flooding. The federal government administers flood insurance. More information is available at the National Flood Insurance Program at www.floodsmart.gov. It is predicted more than 75 % of Beaufort County will have the potential to flood with a Category 1 Hurricane. Please be mindful you live in the Lowcountry, therefore the entire region is flat and flood-prone.
- Best advice: Leave PRIOR to an evacuation order. You can better control your destination and route. Once an evacuation order is called, SC Highway Patrol officers and local officers will direct your path of travel which may add to frustration and increase travel time to your intended destination.
- Remember, if you decide to stay during an evacuation order, emergency services may be suspended due to unsafe weather conditions. Each resident who stays during an evacuation has to be prepared to address a health or safety situation alone.
- Please be patient and help your neighbor. The Town is working around the clock to manage the storm; however, everyone has a role in the community’s safety and recovery.
Hurricane Season Reminders:
- The Hurricane Season begins June 1 and ends November 30. Historically, the Lowcountry has hurricanes or effects from hurricanes from late August through October.
- The Governor of South Carolina is the only one who can declare an evacuation order. Your local county and municipal officials are following the Governor’s directive and may enact local measures to support and augment an evacuation order as needed to ensure public safety.
- Beaufort County Emergency Management (under the direction of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office) is the lead agency for all of Beaufort County. Its representatives decide re-entry routes and times. The Town of Bluffton follows the directives of Beaufort County Emergency Management during a hurricane or critical incident.
- There are NO shelters available in Beaufort County during a hurricane. The Red Cross has opened some shelters in Jasper County during storm events. Please call the local Red Cross for further information. Shelter information, when available, will be included in the town’s updates to social media.
- If you need transportation to a shelter prior to a storm, please call the Palmetto Breeze, the Lowcountry’s public transportation system at 843.757.5782.