Hurricane Joaquin batters Bahamas; 31 Americans on missing freighter (copy)

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Here are some basic preparations you can make before a hurricane makes landfall.

Prepare for the storm

  • Contact your local emergency management office to determine how vulnerable you are to a hurricane. Check for reports of storm surges in coastal areas as well as high winds, tornadoes, heavy rain and flooding in inland areas.
  • Plan an evacuation route that will allow you to drive 20 to 50 miles inland.
  • Fuel up your family vehicles and get them serviced if needed.
  • Charge your cellphone and mobile devices, and keep a charger handy. Limit your cellphone use to emergency calls during the storm.
  • Consider buying a hand-powered, solar-powered or hand crank-powered radio or television to check for emergency updates during power outages.
  • If you are staying home during a hurricane, make sure you are in a well-constructed building and go to an interior first-floor room or closet.
  • Make copies of vital documents and make sure to pack them in your evacuation kit. Consider using a waterproof container such as a safe or a storage bag. Important documents could include your driver’s license, Social Security card, proof of residence, insurance policies, wills, deeds, birth and marriage certificates, tax records, medical records and family pictures.
  • Decide on emergency meeting places where your household members can go for protection or to reunite. Identify places in your home, in your neighborhood, outside your neighborhood and outside your community where you can all meet in case you are separated during a disaster.
  • For more preparation tips, visit the S.C. Emergency Management Division website at scemd.org.

Stock up

  • Gather all your medications in a first-aid kit to take with you in case of an evacuation. Also pack a list of the medications you take and the doctor prescribing them.
  • State officials recommend that you be prepared to survive for at least three days in case of an emergency. Be sure you have enough non-perishable food to last you and your family three days. If you have a leftover emergency food kit from a previous hurricane season, check to make sure it has not expired.
  • Keep bottled water on hand. A good rule of thumb is to have 2 gallons per person per day you will have to survive after a disaster. Again, three days is the recommended time to prepare for.
  • Pack flashlights and spare batteries. Check to make sure the flashlights have good batteries in them.
  • Have cash on hand as ATMs and credit card machines might not be working after the storm.
  • As the storm approaches, fill bathtubs and sinks with water for cleaning and washing. Stock coolers with ice. Fill containers with water and freeze them so they can help cool food and later be used as drinking water. And turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest settings, and avoid opening them as much as possible.

Make a communication plan

  • Make a plan to communicate with your family and loved ones during an emergency.
  • On paper, create a list of contact information that includes family members, doctors, schools and service providers. Give everyone a copy to carry in their purse, backpack or wallet.
  • Write down phone numbers and email addresses for everyone in your household, and create a plan for communicating if battery power runs out or electronic devices aren't working.
  • If you have a household member who is deaf or hard of hearing or has a speech disability, write down information on how to connect through relay services on a landline phone, mobile device or computer.
  • If you have children in school, tell them your plan and who will pick them up in the case of an emergency. Sign up to receive alerts and warnings if your school offers them.
  • Identify someone outside your community or state who can act as a central point of contact for your family. Long-distance phone calls might be easier to make than local calls when local lines are jammed during an emergency.
  • If cellphone services are overloaded during a disaster, try sending a text message. A text requires less bandwidth than a phone call and will send automatically when the capacity becomes available
  • Enter household and emergency contact information into all household members’ cellphones or devices.
  • Planning tips and templates are available at ready.gov/make-a-plan.

After the storm

  • Avoid downed or sagging power lines.
  • Avoid flooded roads and washed-out roads. Follow directions and obey signs indicating closed roads.
  • If returning home after an evacuation, beware of snakes, insects and animals that might have sought higher ground due to flooding.
  • Open doors and windows to ventilate and dry out your home.
  • Do not operate a grill or light fires indoors to avoid deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If you left food in your refrigerator, check to see if it is spoiled before eating it.
  • Check your home for gas leaks, electrical system damage, and sewer and waterline damage.

Reach Paul Bowers at 843-937-5546. Follow him on Twitter @paul_bowers.