Every minute counts before, during and after a hurricane hits.
Here is what you need to know to prepare your home and family. In this guide, you’ll find evacuation routes, emergency apps and contacts, and what to do before, during and after a hurricane. The information comes from the South Carolina Emergency Management Division.
INLAND HURRICANE IMPACTS
Even if you don’t live along coastal areas, hurricanes can still move inland and cause destruction. The heavy rainfall that usually accompanies these storms can also cause inland flooding.
Hurricanes include powerful winds, heavy rainfall, coastal and inland flooding, rip currents, tornadoes and even landslides. SCEMD says the greatest threat to life and property associated with a hurricane is storm surge, an abnormal rise of water above the predicted tides.
According to the NOAA, a storm surge can cause extreme flooding in coastal areas, particularly when a storm surge coincides with normal high tide.
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What you do now to prepare could make all the difference.
WEATHER ALERTS, EMERGENCY NEWS APPS
Make sure you download the WLTX app for the latest news and emergency information.
If the power or cable goes out, you’ll still be able to connect online. You can find livestreaming video, updated weather forecasts and reports from our field crews on the WLTX app. Be sure to check the area where you live and work so you can get local alerts. You can also get alerts for other locations.
OTHER EMERGENCY APPS
You should make sure you have these emergency apps on your phone. This will make it easier to get the information you need during a hurricane.
- SC Emergency Manager
- SCDOT for Traffic Conditions
- National Weather Service
- Flashlight by Rik (Apple)
- Brightest Flashlight Fee (Android)
- Hands-only CPR
Add these emergency contact numbers and email addresses to your mobile phone. Make sure your contact list includes the police department, fire station and hospital, as well as family members.
SC Emergency Management: 803-737-8500
- Public Information Phone System: 1-866-8246-0133
- SC Department of Transportation: 855-467-2368
- SC Department of Insurance: 803-737-6160
- American Red Cross: 1-866-438-4636
- FEMA: 1-800-621-FEMA
- SC Commission for Minority Affairs: 803-333-9621
- SC Department of Education: 803-734-8500
- SC Salvation Army: 704-522-4970
- SC Animal Care and Control: 843-329-1574
- SC Department of Agriculture: 803-734-2200
CONTACTING FAMILY AFTER A HURRICANE
If you need to reach your family, use your family communications plan or contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS/1-800-733-2767 or visit the ARC Safe and Well site: www.safeandwell.org
If you cannot return home and need shelter, text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
Crisis Response: You can also learn how to use Crisis Response on Facebook to allow family and friends to know that you're safe
In the event of a hurricane, local officials and relief workers will be on scene to help. However, they may not be able to reach everyone right away. You may need to be ready to take care of yourself and your family for up to three days.
Create a Family Emergency Plan: Before an emergency, meet with your family members and discuss what you’ll do, how you’ll get in contact with each other and where to go. Here are a few steps to take as you make your emergency plan:
- Pick an out-of-state friend to be your family contact. All family members should call this person to tell them where they are and whether they are safe to help reduce panic during an emergency.
- Remember to plan for your pets as well
- Discuss what to do in an evacuation. Be sure you know your shelter plan and evacuation route.
SCEMD has more information to help you get started on your family emergency plan.
You’ll want to make sure your important documents are kept in a waterproof container:
- Photo ID (e.g., driver’s license, passport)
- Cash and credit cards Personal records (e.g., birth certificates, marriage certificates)
- Medical records Financial information (e.g., bank account or credit card information)
- Property records (e.g., insurance policies, deed, or lease)
If possible, put your most important identification and medical records into a digital format for easy safekeeping and quicker movement.
In the wake of a disaster, it’s best to make an emergency kit before grocery stores and gas stations run out of supplies.
- Water (two gallons of water per person per day for at least three days) for drinking and sanitation
- Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers
- Prescription medications and glasses
- Infant formula and diapers
- Pet food and extra water for your pet
- Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container
- Family emergency contact information
- Cash or traveler's checks and change
In your first aid kits, you should have:
- 2-inch sterile gauze pads (4-6)
- 4-inch sterile gauze pads (4-6)
- Hypoallergenic adhesive tape
- Triangular bandages (3)
- 2-inch sterile roller bandages (3 rolls)
- 3-inch sterile roller bandages (3 rolls)
- Moistened towelettes
- Tongue blades (2)
- Tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricants
- Assorted sizes of safety pins
- Cleansing agent/soap
- Latex gloves (2 pairs)
An evacuation was issued for most of the South Carolina coast. Related Story: SC Evacuation: What You Need to KNow
- Know where you will go
- Fuel up and service family vehicles
- Turn off gas, electricity and water
- Charge your cell phone and mobile devices and have an extra charger for your phone
In the event of an evacuation, you should have what you need when you leave home. Here’s a list of what supplies to take with you:
- Water (two gallons per person per day)
- Non-perishable food for at least three days
- Flashlights with extra batteries
- Portable radio with extra batteries
- Mobile device chargers
- Blankets and towels
- Bedding and clothing for each family member
- Plastic dishes and eating utensils
- Rain jackets/pants
- Sunscreen, sunglasses and mosquito repellent
- Baby supplies (food, diapers, medication)
- Toothbrush, toothpaste
- Soap, shampoo and other personal hygiene items
- Emergency documents
- Cash (enough to fill up your vehicle with gas)
- Sanitary supplies
- First aid kit, including any prescription medications
- Pet supplies (food, leash, vaccination records, carrier)
EVACUATION ROUTES IN SOUTH CAROLINA
You’ll want to make sure you know your evacuation route.
Here is a list of emergency shelters.
CHARGING YOUR DEVICES
With severe weather comes the possibility of power outages. Plan ahead and get your phones, laptops and tablets charged up. The more devices you have charged when the power goes out, the longer you’ll be able to keep in touch.
WHO TO FOLLOW FOR EMERGENCY INFO ON TWITTER
Do not depend solely on Facebook to get timely weather alerts, as Facebook uses an algorithm to determine what shows up in your newsfeed. Every post does not show up in your feed even if you’ve liked a page. Twitter, on the other hand, will show every single post from a source you’re following. Be sure to double-check timestamps on tweets.
EMERGENCY INFORMATION TWITTER HANDLES
WLTX TWITTER HANDLES
KNOW THE TERMS
Hurricane Watch - An announcement that hurricane conditions are possible within the specified area. Prepare your home and review your evacuation plan in case a hurricane. Listen closely to instructions from local officials in case a hurricane or tropical storm warning is issued.
Hurricane Warning - An announcement that hurricane conditions are expected within the specified area. A warning is typically issued 36 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds that can make outside preparations difficult or dangerous.
In this event, finish storm preparations and immediately leave the threatened area if directed by local officials. Have a plan for where you will stay, such as with family or friends, at a hotel or at a shelter.
Tropical Storm Warning - An announcement that tropical-storm conditions are expected within the specified area. A tropical storm warning requires the same action as a hurricane warning.
BEFORE A HURRICANE
36 HOURS AWAY FROM A HURRICANE
- Turn on your TV or radio in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
- Restock your emergency preparedness kit. Include food and water sufficient for at least three days, medications, a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.
- Plan how to communicate with family members if you lose power. For example, you can call, text, email or use social media. Remember that during disasters, sending text messages is usually reliable and faster than making phone calls because phone lines are often overloaded.
- Review your evacuation zone, evacuation route and shelter locations. Plan with your family. You may have to leave quickly, so plan ahead.
- Keep your car in good working condition, and keep the gas tank full; stock your vehicle with emergency supplies and a change of clothes.
18-36 HOURS AWAY FROM A HURRICANE
- Bookmark your city or county website for quick access to storm updates and emergency instructions.
- Bring loose, lightweight objects inside that could become projectiles in high winds (e.g., patio furniture, garbage cans); anchor objects that would be unsafe to bring inside (e.g., propane tanks); and trim or remove trees close enough to fall on the building.
- Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” exterior grade or marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install.
6-18 HOURS AWAY FROM A HURRICANE
- Turn on your TV/radio, or check your city/county website every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
- Charge your cell phone now so you will have a full battery in case you lose power.
6 HOURS AWAY FROM A HURRICANE
- If you’re not in an area that is recommended for evacuation, plan to stay at home or where you are and let friends and family know where you are.
- Close storm shutters, and stay away from windows. Flying glass from broken windows could injure you.
- Turn your refrigerator or freezer to the coldest setting and open only when necessary. If you lose power, food will last longer. Keep a thermometer in the refrigerator to be able to check the food temperature when the power is restored.
- Turn on your TV/radio, or check your city/county website every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
DURING A HURRICANE
- Stay tuned to your local television and radio stations for emergency information. Keep battery-operated, solar-powered or hand-crank operated radio or television for use during power outages.
- Stay inside a well-constructed building away from windows and doors, even if they are covered. Go to an interior first-floor room, closet, or under the stairs.
- Be alert. Tornadoes are often spawned during hurricanes.
- If the “eye” of the storm passes over your area, be aware that severe conditions will return with winds from the other direction in a very short time.
- Limit non-emergency calls. Keep calls brief to minimize network congestion. Wait at least 10 seconds before redialing a call. For non-emergencies, try text messaging from your mobile device.
- Once the storm passes, be patient. You will most likely not be able to return home right away.
- Hurricanes typically bring heavy rains that can compound drainage problems. Torrential rain may continue even after wind has diminished, which could easily result in destructive flash flooding.
- If there is any possibility of a flash food, move to higher ground. Do not wait to be told to move.
- If time allows, prepare your home by moving essential items to an upper floor, bring in outdoor furniture, disconnect electrical appliances and be prepared to turn off the gas, electricity and water.
- Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water is enough to make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving, and use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
- Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. Twelve inches of water is enough to float away a small car.
- Avoid floodwaters, as water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline or raw sewage. The water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
- After a flood, listen to local officials to learn whether the community's water supply is safe to drink.
- Clean and disinfect everything that got wet, as mud left from floodwater can contain sewage and other harmful chemicals.
POWER LINE SAFETY
Stay away from downed and sagging power lines. Consider all lines energized, as well as trees or anything else in contact with the lines. Report downed power lines to your local power company and police department.
If a power line falls across a car you're in, stay in the car. If you must get out of the car because of a fire or other life-threatening situation, do your best to jump clear of the car and land on both feet. Make sure no part of your body is touching the car when your feet touch the ground.
REPORTING POWER OUTAGES
SCEMD has a list of electricity providers and phone numbers where you can report power outages in your area.
During power outages, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and fire increase. Here's how to keep your family safe.
- Read the label on your generator and the owner's manual before a storm hits so you can use the generator safely.
- Do not attempt to tie generators into the house circuit; this could be dangerous to you, your neighbors and linemen.
- Never use a generator inside a home, garage or shed, because the carbon monoxide from the generators can kill you in minutes.
- Plug appliances directly into the generator.
PLANNING FOR PETS
Remember to include your pets in your emergency plan ahead of time.
- Evacuate with your pet outside the evacuation zone. An emergency temporary shelter should be a last resort. According to SCEMD, only the emergency shelters at Dubose Middle School in Summerville, at Blenheim Elementary/Middle School in Blenheim and at Cane Bay High School in Summerville are pet-friendly.
- Consider boarding facilities, veterinary clinics, pet-friendly hotels, stables for horses or small livestock and homes of friends and relatives instead of shelters.
- Keep your animals' immunizations current and have copies of all important documents.
- Make sure you animal's identification information is up to date. Have photos of yourself with your animals to prove ownership if you become separated.
- Place a thermometer in your refrigerator and freezer and make sure the food stays below 41 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In the event of a power outage, do not open refrigerators or freezers unless absolutely necessary. Opening them repeatedly could cause cold air to escape and food to thaw more quickly.
- Prepare coolers and purchase ice and/or dry ice.
AFTER A HURRICANE
Avoid downed and sagging power lines and report them immediately to the power company, police or fire department
Stay tuned to your local radio and TV stations as well as social media for recovery information.
Be alert for driving restrictions from flooded roads and washed-out bridges
Enter your home with caution only after local authorities advise it is safe to do so
Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the buillding. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can, and call the gas company from a neighbor's home.
Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks, broken or frayed wires or smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to a fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first.
Check for sewage and water line damage. If you think the sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid water from the tap.
Let a relative know you are home. Tell them how touch with you and your other family members, especially if phone service is out.
Take pictures. Photos of the damage will help you file insurance claims.
Before an emergency, review your insurance policy so that you know if you have adequate coverage. Make sure you understand the difference between replacement cost and actual cash value. You should also know your policy's deductibles and the procedures to take when property is damaged or destroyed.
Make a list of valuables, furniture and electronics. Take pictures of your property so you have a visual record of your belongings.
A standard homeowners or renters policy does not cover damage from a flood. The SC Department of Insurance says you will likely need to purchase a separate flood insurance policy.
Stay Connected/Download the WLTX App
You can also review the South Carolina Emergency Management Division's checklist for preparation. Again, no need to panic and run out and buy things at the grocery store. But it's just good to go ahead and look at it. There are a ton of good resources there.