“It’s All About You:” Hurricane Preparedness 2022

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When it comes to planning for a hurricane, it's all about you. Your chamber sat down with Stephen Combs and Tom Dunn, who are the emergency managers for Bluffton and Hilton Head Island, to talk a little bit about what to expect this hurricane season, and why it's best to keep your plans for your family and your business pretty simple. 


Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber (HHIBC): Here we are, another year, another hurricane season approaching, and we're keeping our fingers crossed that it's another quiet one, but predictions say differently. We've heard year after year, the best practices for preparedness are having a plan, knowing your route, having your insurance in order. But what would you say to those who may have gotten complacent? 


Tom Dunn (TD), Town of Hilton Head Island: It's not necessarily complacency. I think it's life. A lot of times life gets in the way, we've been way more busy than we ever have been. There's been a huge focus on COVID the last several years. So I think it's a good time to refocus. Know your evacuation routes, put your plan together. If you don't have one, now's your time to do it. It doesn't have to be complicated. Just start simple, build little pieces of it little bits at a time. Eventually you'll have a full plan in place.


Stephen Combs (SC), Town of Bluffton: One key word is "keep it simple." You know, so many people try to complicate this process of being prepared. They think, "Oh my gosh, I don't know where to start." But start very simple. Just what's the basic evacuation plan for your own home? If you don't have a route that you've already determined for your family, that's a good place to start. 


HHIBC: How is this hurricane season different from others, especially in the years past?


TD: We had to completely adjust everything that we did and how we did it, just because of the concerns of COVID and the number of people we could have in one place. I think the same thing holds true for personal evacuation plans. You had to take all those things into account. What restrictions were in place in the place you were evacuating to? What resources were available to you? You needed to take additional things with you like the hand sanitizer and masks. 


SC: Just because we're not seeing the kinds of numbers that we saw in 2020 or 2021 that doesn't mean we should let our guards down. There's that potential that we could see another spike.


HHIBC: Tom, you've been at the town for a number of years. You were on the ground for Hurricane Matthew and the subsequent evacuations. What would you say to those who are new to the area, maybe they're from Ohio, or upstate North Carolina, and they may not have ever experienced a hurricane?


TD:  We learned a lot during Hurricane Matthew, and then the subsequent evacuations with Irma and Dorian. Talk to your neighbor, talk to people who were here at that particular time to realize that it was not a place you wanted to be during that storm, and that you need to leave. Understand it's time to go when the authorities tell you to go. When we say it's time to go, the governor makes that order, so it’s time to  implement the plan that we've just talked about and evacuate to a safe place.


SC:The decisions that the governor makes are not taken lightly. There's a lot of factors that go into that. He uses a lot of resources.


TD: That's a good point there. [The governor] is talking directly to the hurricane center. He's not getting that information secondhand. He is talking to the best available resource that there is out there. When he makes that decision, he's making it with the best information available.


HHIBC: What would you say are the top two things that people should take away when we talk about hurricane season and preparing their home and their business? 


SC: When you're evacuating, you need to have a plan of where you're going and where your pets are gonna go because not every location is pet friendly. So identify those before you make your plans to evacuate the area. Know where you're gonna go. Have that emergency kit and prepare your vehicle. Tom, you know, people get out in traffic. The lanes are only going in certain directions. There aren't too many places for people to get off the freeway. They need to make sure that their vehicles are prepared, gassed up, and that they've got snacks for everybody to hang in there.


TD: A lot of times when I do presentations, I'll use a phrase, it's all about you and your planning is just that way. So make sure that it's about you, it's about your family, it's about where you are at this point. You know, obviously if you have pets, you need to plan for pets. If you don't have pets, you don't need to worry about it. Take a look at your life and your situation and the plan based on that. Like we said before, keep it simple. Don't overcomplicate it, because if you overcomplicate it, you're probably not going to do it.


HHIBC: Where are some places people can go to get resources on how to make a plan?


TD: For Hilton Head Island, you can go to the town's website, hit the link on the top that says "public safety." We've got a Ready HHI tab in that. There's all the information on the evacuation routes. There's our planning guide, we've got a preparedness guide that you can print there, or it’s available at any of the fire stations, townhall, or any of town facilities. Beaufort County has great resources on the sheriff's office page. 


SC: The Town of Bluffton is working on adding some additional resources to our website. I don't want to overlook the South Carolina Emergency Management Division. They have a brand new website. It's hurricane.sc. And it basically takes that condensed version of the paper hand guide and breaks down a lot of the preparedness, what do you need to know and what do you need to do. Ready.gov is a great resource. It has all kinds of things. Not just for hurricane preparation, but also for any type of disaster or crisis situation that the community might face.