Hurricane Preparedness: Residents, Businesses Say Get Ready Now - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

05/25/07

Hurricane Preparedness: Residents, Businesses Say Get Ready Now

Plastic containers for important papers Plastic containers for important papers
Flash drive to store digital photos and documents Flash drive to store digital photos and documents

How prepared is your family or your business for a hurricane? Hurricane season is only a week away, but many people wait until forecasters warn us about a storm before making their emergency plans. Ideally, you'll want to get ready now.

If you've lived in the Coastal Empire or Low Country for awhile, you know the basics; however, new residents will want to have one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, as well as three days' worth of non-perishable food. You should also stock up on flashlights, batteries and keep cash on hand (ATMS may not be working) and make sure you keep important documents with you. Usually, we know several days in advance when a storm is approaching, but people who have been through storms before say you should make your emergency plan now, not then.

"You've got to do it ahead of time," said Clayton Scott.

Scott, the deputy planning director for the Chatham Emergency Management Agency and his wife, Mary Jane, the executive director for America's Second Harvest Food Bank, spend their days taking care of others, but also plan for their own family.

"We have children," explained Mary Jane Scott. "We need to have a plan because we need to make sure that they don't get excited and worried that things will be left behind."

"Military records, passports, birth certificates, social security cards, deeds, insurance papers," said Clayton Scott, reading off a list of important documents the couple has compiled, along with exactly where to find them. They've included items they keep in their safety deposit box. "Safety deposit boxes are not waterproof," Scott said. "Bank vaults are not waterproof."

Before you figure out what to take if you have to leave your home, you need to figure out how much room you have to bring things with you.

"I believe in the Rubbermaid box principal," said Clayton Scott. "Where you go find what car you're going to take and you find out how many Rubbermaid boxes you can get in it. We can get nine containers in our SUV. That's it. No more."

In addition to three boys, the Scotts have to find room for their two 80 lb. golden retrievers. To save some space, they've scanned their photos into the computer with an inexpensive scanner they bought for under $100. Almost every picture they own is copied onto a $29 computer flash drive.

"That's a whole lot easier than taking five to six containers of pictures with you," said Clayton Scott, "and the quality of them, as far as we're concerned, is excellent."

That means more room for the family, a family portrait, and important mementos.

"We have a soccer ball signed by the whole state winning team," explained Mary Jane Scott. "That's something that's important to our children so those are things we can never replace."

When it comes to evacuating, the Scotts said to tell your relatives where you're going and leave early. It saved them hours when Hurricane Floyd came.

"If you're leaving late, and we heard the horror stories, you need to have food in case you're stuck in traffic," she added.

Planning is important for businesses, too. For David Solano, who owns Roger Wood Foods, it wasn't a hurricane, but fire that threatened to destroy everything his family worked sixty years to build.

"(With) Hurricanes you have an advantage," he said, "because you do have two to three days to understand it. When a fire knocks on your door, it's there. So you better be ready when it knocks."

On January 13, an overheated vacuum pump at Roger Wood Foods caught fire, gutting the company's warehouse and causing millions of dollars of damage to the family owned meat processing company. The fire forced them to lay off many of their 200 employees, but within three weeks most were back and production was already underway, all thanks, Solano said, to having a plan.

"Having a plan in place, I think, is primary and it doesn't have to be a 50 page document," he said.

Backing up important documents and communication was key for the company.

"We changed our website," Solano said. "We faxed our customers. We phoned our customers. Thank goodness for cell phones. We visited a lot of them, went out on the road and told them the story of what was going on."

"In 12 days," said Operations Manager Jodie Powell, "we had a temporary situation set up where we could start producing again. We were receiving meat and producing in less than two weeks."

Solano believes his company would never have recovered this fast without their emergency plan.

"I think we avoided mistakes," he explained. "We avoided time being wasted and we avoided customers being upset."

The Scotts and the Solanos are all excellent examples of why you want to be prepared. Many people in our community have their own tips to offer. Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson keeps a duffle bag packed with a few items in the event we need to evacuate. An American Red Cross worker has a Christmas Club account at her bank. Every month she puts money into it. If we need to evacuate for a hurricane, she has the cash she needs. If not, she uses the money to buy gifts for the holidays.

The Chatham Emergency Management Agency also has valuable information to help you prepare your home and business for hurricane season. To learn more, go to http://cema.chathamcounty.org or visit them at 124 Bull Street, Suite 140, Savannah, GA 31401. The phone number is 912.201.4500.

Check here for Chatham County hurricane evacuation routes.

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com

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