Being prepared is key to safety

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Barnwell County has once again overcome severe weather relatively unscathed due to the team work and preparedness of many folks.

Hurricane Hermine kicked off the Labor Day weekend in a nasty way as it brought soaking rain – 10 inches in some places – and strong winds. This caused unsafe road conditions in many parts of the county as trees and power lines fell and water covered many roads.

While schools, government offices and many businesses closed, residents were urged to stay home and off the roads. However, a group of folks were out working in the wet conditions, including emergency management, law enforcement officers, volunteer firefighters, emergency management officials, EMS, S.C. Department of Transportation workers as well as municipal and county utility crews.

This group of folks worked together to clear roads, restore power, assist residents in need and monitor weather conditions. We also can’t leave out the dedicated 911 dispatchers who were a vital lifeline as they fielded many calls during the storm, including one to assist a man trapped in his bed after a tree fell through his house.

We sincerely thank all these folks for their hard work. They don’t do their jobs for the recognition, but we should all take the time to thank them for working in nasty conditions to keep the rest of us safe.

We also thank officials of local public and private schools for making the decision to close schools. Traveling in the conditions we saw Friday would have been unsafe, especially for buses. The safety of students and staff is the most important thing.

Though we escaped Hurricane Hermine without catastrophic damage, you can help others affected by Hurricane Hermine and other natural disasters, such as the massive disaster response underway in Louisiana where floodwaters have destroyed 120,000 homes. The Red Cross is providing shelter, food, relief supplies and comfort to thousands of people there. In addition, volunteers are responding to wildfires out west, tornadoes in Indiana and flooding in Colorado, Indiana and Ohio.

People can help by donating to Red Cross Disaster Relief to support disasters big and small. Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. You can also send a donation to your local Red Cross office. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from these and other disasters. You can also become a Red Cross volunteer.

Donations do make a difference locally, statewide and across the country. The Williston family, who is now homeless after a tree crashed through their mobile home, was assisted by the Red Cross.

The storm also serves as a good reminder of why it is important to be prepared for severe weather in the future.

As residents of a coastal state, South Carolinians should put time and effort into being prepared for hurricanes and tropical storms. We still have three months of hurricane season left, plus September is National Preparedness Month.

Consider Hermine a “full scale drill” and think about your experience. What would you do differently? What would you do if it had been much worse?

Emergencies are more than storms. Consider what other preparations you might need to make.

Make those changes now.

Before a storm:

1. Know your terms. A “watch” is a notification for residents to be on alert of a potential storm, and a “warning” indicates that a hurricane is expected in your area. Review the South Carolina Hurricane Guide for more information.

2. Make a plan. Create a family plan in the event a storm occurs or an evacuation is necessary, and keep emergency contact information handy. Don’t forget to consider your pets when planning for a possible evacuation.

3. Review your insurance plans and make copies of important documents, like driver’s licenses, medical information, and insurance cards.

4. Pack emergency kits ahead of time. Having critical resources, such as bottled water, non-perishable snacks, medication, batteries, and flashlights prepared ahead of time will save valuable time in a storm.

5. Download the free Red Cross Emergency App to receive emergency alerts and information about what to do in case of hurricanes, flooding and other disasters, as well as locations of shelters. The app includes emergency first aid information and a Family Safe feature which allows people to instantly see if loved ones are okay. The free Emergency App is available in app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.

6. Review The Red Cross Hurricane Safety Checklist at www.redcross.org to learn more about what to do if a hurricane might affect your community.

During a Storm:

1. Listen to local radio and television broadcasts for current conditions and recommended actions. Sign up for South Carolina’s Emergency Alert system on your mobile device here.

2. Evacuate when directed by local authorities. Know your designated evacuation route in advance.

3. If you are unable to evacuate, seek shelter in an interior room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level.

4. Do not drive through flooded roads. Turn around; Don’t drown. (Stay off the roads completely unless in an emergency.)

After a Storm:

1. Be careful. Stay alert to downed power lines, contaminated water, or possible gas leaks.

2. Document any damage to your property or residence.

3. Contact SCEMD’s Recovery Program to see what recovery assistance may be available for your area.

4. Be vigilant against possible disaster-related scams or price gouging, and report any suspected scams to the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs.