Hilton Head Island Takes an Extra Measure to Keep Islanders Safe - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

10/10/06

Hilton Head Island Takes an Extra Measure to Keep Islanders Safe

When there's rough weather and you're not glued to the television watching Pat, how do you know to take cover?  Severe weather can strike at any time and Bluffton residents found out this past Sunday.  A tornado was spotted in the area but when county officials tried to get the message out on Hargray Cable, they ran into trouble. 

Because of complications, it took three tries before they were able to properly alert residents.  Because of complications like that and because many residents aren't just sitting inside by their television or radio when an emergency strikes, the Town of Hilton Head Island is going to a new alert system.

The golf course is a popular destination for residents and visitors on Hilton Head Island - but when a storm hits, it can be a very vulnerable spot.  "If you're in your car, we can get you on your radio, if you're in your home watching t.v.., we can get you on your cable warning system, but there's nothing for people outside and look at all the people outside at any given time on Hilton Head Island," said Jay Harter, Hilton Head Island  Emergency Management Coordinator.

 That's why Hilton Head Island Emergency Management is planning to install a new 800-thousand dollar alert system throughout the island.  "Its not your father's old type of system that just sat there and wailed," said Harter.  "This is a new high tech electronic siren.  You can do the actual tones like an old siren or voice communication."

As part of the project, 20 alert units will be mounted on 100 foot poles throughout the island to help get the word out.  " I can pick up a microphone and speak over this system and reach the whole island," said Harter.  "If anyone is outside, they'll hear me."

That brings comfort to Gus and Lillian Demas.   "It would make me feel a lot safer because you know storms down here come and go quickly so it gives you that extra security," said Gus Demas.  "If you're in the middle of a golf course and hear something, you have ample time to seek shelter."  "I think its always positive to consider getting notified when there's a threat of bad weather, especially out on a golf course," said Lillian Demas. 

But some say this extra measure, isn't necessary.  "I think it's over kill," said Joe Scheines.

 "We have ample warning system." 

The Emergency Management Coordinator says this system will be used for all kinds of alerts, including hurricanes, tornados, electrical storms, even for tsunamis.  It can even be used as a tool for law enforcement. But officials say it won't be in place for more than a year.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey, jdailey@wtoc.com

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