As hurricane season begins today, there are certain things every coastal citizen of South Carolina should know. Ten hurricanes rocked the Atlantic coastline in 2012, including Sandy, which destroyed large sections of the Northeast.

Nick Marino, Berkeley County homeland security specialist in the emergency preparedness department, explained the key things needed to navigate this hurricane season.

Q: What are the biggest things that citizens should have in a preparedness kit or a preparedness plan, should any storm threaten the coastline?

A: Some of the things in a plan that you definitely want to include are phone numbers of not only those in your household but family members out of town or out of state, to let them know you’re OK; medications; water; non-perishable food. If you have any small children, sometimes people forget about things like diapers, formula, things along those lines. If you have pets, don’t forget about food and water for your pets.

Q: Gauging from last year’s activity and what we can see so far from preliminary reports, how severe is the season going to be?

A: This is supposed to be an above average season, much more active than the average season. Technology has gotten so much better, where they can more accurately determine where a storm is going as they’re tracking it. They can’t really determine the intensity that a storm will be as much as they can predict its path. One of the key things to remember is, despite however many storms that they predict will happen, there’s no way to determine if the storm is actually going to hit the coast.

Q: What are the main things that coastal citizens should know, especially when and where to go if an impending storm is coming through?

A: There’s no longer a voluntary and mandatory evacuation. There’s an evacuation order or there isn’t. You don’t want to wait until that mandatory evacuation time. If you wait until that time, there’s a window that, as the storm approaches, I-26 as well as secondary roads are going to be set up as the evacuation routes.

With those routes, the state has done an excellent job of listing out at key intersections how many barricades are going to be at that intersection, how many local law enforcement, state law enforcement, (and) National Guard. They literally have it down to the intersection, down to the traffic cone, of what will be where.

The key thing is, when you’re on that evacuation route during the time of the ordered evacuation, you are on that route from beginning to end. You can’t change routes, you can’t decide, ‘Well, I want to go here instead.’

If you leave prior to the order being given, when we start encouraging people to leave, you can take whatever route you want to go to, wherever you want to. So there’s a lot more flexibility involved with that.

The other thing that we try to remind people about is regarding sheltering. If you’re in an evacuation zone, try and get to some place outside the evacuation zone: a hotel, friend’s house, family member, what have you. The absolute — I cannot stress this enough — absolute last place you want to go to is a hurricane shelter. A lot of people don’t realize the conditions that are actually present in a hurricane shelter, just the lack of privacy (and) the small (amount of space) given. You lose so many amenities that a lot of people don’t think they would be losing.

Q: Are there any other major pieces of advice that citizens need to be aware about with hurricane season starting today?

A: The biggest things to consider are: plan, prepare, know your evacuation routes and know what evacuation zone you’re in.