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Hurricane Florence in 2018 presented an unusual situation in which South Carolina was evacuated but Georgia was not. Many South Carolina residents, who work in Georgia, voiced they felt conflicted between their work obligations and their personal safety. While this situation is rare, it is best to discuss this situation with your employer prior to hurricane season and know your employer’s expectations, plans and parameters if this circumstance arises again.
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In South Carolina, only the governor can issue a mandatory evacuation order. Your local county and municipal officials are following the Governor’s directive and may enact local measures to support and augment an evacuation order as needed for public safety.
The Beaufort County Emergency Management Division, under the direction of the Beaufort County Sheriff, is the lead emergency management agency for all of Beaufort County. They have a direct link to the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, and during emergencies they coordinate all response activities countywide through the Beaufort County Emergency Operations Center. The County Emergency Operations Center is staffed by critical support functions and representatives from all municipalities and military bases in the county as well as representatives from the Beaufort County School District.
Following the Governor’s lifting of an evacuation order, a policy group made up of senior representatives in the Emergency Operations Center provide input to the Beaufort County Emergency Manager regarding re-entry procedures.
The Town of Bluffton follows the directives of Beaufort County Emergency Management during a hurricane or critical incident. The Town of Bluffton activates its own Emergency Operations Center, within the Bluffton Police Department, and its representatives are available to assist you with information during a storm event.
There are NO shelters available in Beaufort County during a hurricane. Beaufort County, also known as the Lowcountry, is comprised of low-lying land surrounded by marshes, rivers and other bodies of water. There are no shelters in Beaufort County due to its flat land and being flood prone.
The Red Cross has opened some shelters in Jasper County during storm events. Please call the local Red Cross for further information.
If a storm event is not a hurricane, Red Cross may open a shelter in Beaufort County, however, variables of each, unique storm dictate that decision. There may also be times when shelters are available in the county following a storm, especially if there are areas of the county which have become temporarily uninhabitable. Shelter information, when available, will be included in the town’s updates to social media. Additionally, a list of shelters will be available on https://scemd.org/stay-informed/emergency-shelters/
If you need transportation to a shelter prior to a storm, please call Palmetto Breeze, the Lowcountry’s public transportation system at 843.757.5782. Please plan ahead; its buses cease operation once the storm and/or high winds begin.
The Town of Bluffton has jurisdiction over pollutants in Town neighborhoods, not flooding. Flooding is an issue which your Property Owners Association (POA) must address. If you don’t live in a neighborhood with a Property Owners Association (POA), contact the agency which maintains your streets. In most circumstances, flooding is a result of the neighborhood’s infrastructure or clogged ditches adjacent to streets.
However, there are tasks which residents and POAs can do to reduce the possibility of flooding. For one, please educate your neighbors to NEVER blow or put lawn debris and/or garbage of any kind in the storm drains. Pipes, ditches and storm drains are a part of the stormwater infrastructure and each one needs to be inspected and possibly cleaned out before Hurricane season. Any obstruction can cause a domino effect of flooding and that could result in damage to your house, your street or your property. Every resident is encouraged to help in this effort and ensure any ditch, pipe or drain near his or her property is clear of any obstruction.
Town employees routinely inspect and clean out stormwater ditches which reside on Town or other public property. However, numerous stormwater ditches are located on private property or in the jurisdiction of state or county roads. To ensure stormwater is able to flow unimpeded through the town’s infrastructure, all stormwater ditches need to be maintained and regularly cleaned, especially prior to a storm. This ensures a continuous flow of water and prevents clogged areas from flooding.
If you see a clogged pipe or storm drain in your neighborhood, please notify your POA or the agency which maintains your street.
If you don’t know which agency is responsible for street maintenance, please view the Road Maintenance Responsibility Map within the Map Gallery on the Town of Bluffton website via: https://www.townofbluffton.sc.gov/686/Map-Gallery.
During a hurricane, the town’s emergency manager and town employees update the town’s social media accounts frequently to ensure our residents are receiving the most recent, accurate information. Social media is a wonderful tool, however, especially during a hurricane, it is important to ensure information received is from a credible source. Please be mindful to check if the information you are sharing and/or believing is attributed to a reliable source such as state, county or local government agency.
It is always a good idea to know what is happening regionally since there could be a domino effect on roads and other factors however this situation can also lead to mixed messages. Hurricane Florence in 2018 caused confusion about information sources. Due to the fact the Lowcountry region is within the Savannah media market, many people said they were confused since Beaufort County was being evacuated, but the Savannah, Georgia region was not. In this case, it is best to tune into your local and county government venues versus television stations. The Savannah area audience is the television station’s primary audience. The Lowcountry audience is secondary. Therefore, local government agencies will have more complete and specific information for your situation.
During a pending storm, early evacuation is encouraged if it is a personally available option. As a former emergency manager said, “When you see a storm brewing, it’s a perfect time to plan a trip to visit friends or family.” If you leave before an official evacuation order, you can travel freely via any route. Once an evacuation order is issued, you may have to take a prescribed route out of town and endure traffic congestion. If your schedule permits, leaving as soon as you are able can prevent congestion and personal frustration.
Mandatory evacuation orders are issued to save the lives of residents as well as first responders. If you choose to ignore the mandatory evacuation order, be prepared to be self-sufficient during, and for the first 72 hours after, a storm. High winds during storms prohibit travel of emergency response vehicles and debris following storms may also prevent travel. In addition, mandatory evacuations also include closure of hospital facilities. This means medical care is unavailable until after evacuation orders are lifted.
• The Town emails Property Owners Associations (POA) at the beginning of each hurricane season and prior to a storm to remind property managers of the following:
• Please remember, most stormwater drainage infrastructure is privately owned and maintenance of them are the responsibility of the POA.
• Trim dead, loose, or overgrown trees and shrubs. Dead or broken limbs may become flying debris during a storm or high winds..
• Communicate with neighborhood residents to trim dead, loose or overgrown limbs on their property.
The Town of Bluffton emails local contractors to remind them of the following:
A hurricane or tropical storm watch means storm conditions are possible in a specified area. This watch is usually issued 48 hours before storm–force winds are expected in an area.
A hurricane or tropical storm warning means storm conditions are expected in a specified area. This warning is usually issued 36 hours before storm–force winds are expected in an area.
The Saffir-Simpson Scale classifies hurricanes by maximum sustained winds. However, please keep in mind a storm may have stronger wind gusts.
Categories 1 through 5:
These categories only highlight potential damage and impacts form the wind. This does not address other potential hurricane related impacts, such as storm surge, flooding, and tornadoes.
Please also be mindful to not classify a storm by “just a category X.” There are many variables which can affect the severity of a hurricane such as if it is arrives at high tide. If a Category 1 arrives at high tide, flooding could be predicted past Highway 170 in the greater Bluffton area. Remember, many factors are in a hurricane equation and each storm and its potential damage is unique.
For our area, the evacuation route will flow North and West. Lane reversals are possible and should be expected during an evacuation. Evacuation routes can be found at https://www.scemd.org/prepare/know-your-zone/.
Again, if you able to leave early, it is a wise decision to reduce traffic congestion and personal frustration and you will also have freedom to travel the route you choose. Once, an evacuation is underway, you will most likely have to take the route which the officers are directing you.
The Citizen Assistance Response Effort, or CARE program, is organized by the Bluffton Police Department and completely run by volunteers. Call the Bluffton Police Department at (843) 706-4550 for more information or email Sgt. DeStasio at email@example.com.
This program is designed to check on those who are elderly, live alone or are disabled and desire a regular call to ensure they are okay.
Volunteers call those who are enrolled in the free program two to three times a week to check on them.
With Smart911, you can provide 9-1-1 call takers and first responders critical information you want them to know in any kind of emergency. This information is given to 9-1-1 dispatchers prior to an emergency situation.
When you call 9-1-1, your Smart911 Safety Profile displays on the 9-1-1 screen and the 9-1-1 call takers can view your addresses, medical information, home information, description of pets and vehicles, and emergency contacts. You can provide as much or as little information as you like.
Smart911 is a national service meaning your Smart911 Safety Profile travels with you and is visible to any participating 9-1-1 center nationwide.
To participate please visit www.smart911.com
The Bluffton Police Department does have a Hispanic Hotline. That phone number is 843-706-7806. Please leave a message and a Spanish-speaking officer will call you back. Please know this hotline is monitored however, it may take a day or two for an officer to call you back.
Dispatch (9-1-1) has access to interpreters for Spanish and numerous other languages. If it is an emergency, please call 9-1-1.
Additionally, a Spanish-speaking resident can also set their settings for social media as well as the Town’s website to numerous other languages. Therefore, all the information available in English is also available in numerous other languages. The Town’s website is: https://www.townofbluffton.sc.gov/. In the bottom, right hand corner of the website’s homepage, you can “Select Language.”
El Departamento de Policía de Bluffton tiene una línea directa para hispanos. Ese número de teléfono es 843-706-7806. Deje un mensaje y un oficial de habla hispana le devolverá la llamada. Tenga en cuenta que esta línea directa está supervisada; sin embargo, un oficial puede tardar uno o dos días en devolverle la llamada.
Despacho8 (9-1-1) tiene acceso a intérpretes para español y muchos otros idiomas. Si es una emergencia, llame al 9-1-1.
Además, un residente de habla hispana también puede configurar su configuración para las redes sociales, así como el sitio web de Town, en muchos otros idiomas. Por tanto, toda la información disponible en inglés también está disponible en muchos otros idiomas. El sitio web de la ciudad es: https://www.townofbluffton.sc.gov/. En la esquina inferior derecha de la página de inicio del sitio web, puede "Seleccionar idioma".
South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD) operates on a system of Operational Condition Levels, also known as OPCONS. This numerical scale is how SCEMD, the State Emergency Response Team and counties coordinate, prepare and respond to major emergencies.
The levels are designed to simplify the steps agencies take in order to fully activate emergency resources. The three OPCONs and their definitions are compatible with the majority of state and federal emergency management organizations nationwide, making the state’s processes and procedures easier to understand for teams deploying into South Carolina during a disaster.
South Carolina’s OPCONs and their definitions are as follows:
Agencies coordinate, plan, train and exercise as warranted. Incidents are monitored by the State Warning Point and local emergency managers.
The Town of Bluffton and its police department use various social media platforms to ensure as many people as possible have access to information. Just like people have a social media preference, so do towns and cities. Facebook is the most popular and most frequently used. However, information is distributed on all platforms.
The Town’s social media platforms include: