A Guide To Hurricane Preparedness

Sometimes Mother Nature has a way of reminding us who’s in charge. While you can’t control when or where a hurricane will hit, the best way to minimize potential damage is to be prepared.

Certain regions (such as the Lowcountry) are more prone to hurricanes than other natural disasters. Knowing this gives you the power to prepare in advance so you can have a hurricane safety plan ready to go if you need one. At Hilton Head Insurance & Brokerage we’ve compiled a guide to help you secure your home and family if bad weather is coming your way. Here’s what you want to plan for.

Disaster Supply Kit

Take time to gather the supplies and knowledge you will need when the hurricane arrives. Creating a disaster supply kit is an essential part of your family’s preparedness plan. Even if you are planning on evacuating, the situation when you get home may not be back to normal for several days or even weeks. Be sure to have these essentials packed and available to you regardless of whether you are going to stick it out during the storm or evacuate and then return.

Home Essentials

  • Flashlights (at least one per person)
  • Batteries for electronics and flashlights
  • Ice chest with ice for food storage
  • Battery powered NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) radio
  • Grill with propane or fuel
  • Car charger for mobile phones
  • Toilet paper
  • Waterproof matches and a lighter
  • Seated waterproof container
  • Manual can opener and bottle opener
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Paper plates, bowls, cups, utensils and paper towels
  • Clothing (including pants and a long sleeve shirt)
  • Duct tape, tarp, rope
  • Garbage bags and ziploc bags
  • Basic tool kit
  • Blankets and sleeping bag per person
  • Soap, shampoo, hygiene products
  • Candles
  • Local maps
  • Cash or checks
  • Important documents (insurance, medical, social security cards, ID cards, Emergency numbers)

First Aid

  • First Aid Kit
  • Two-week supply of prescription medications
  • Two-week supply of vitamins/OTC medications
  • Antibacterial hand soap
  • Large pair of metal scissors
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • Whistle
  • Dust mask (one per person)
  • Sanitary wipes


  • One gallon, per person, per day, for at least 4 days
  • One gallon for cooking, per day, for at least 4 days


  • Non perishable packaged or canned food to last up to 14 days
  • Ready to eat canned meats
  • Canned fruits and vegetables
  • Canned or powdered milk
  • Peanut butter and jelly
  • Crackers and bread
  • Baby formula
  • Specialty foods based on dietary requirements
  • Instant coffee and tea
  • Trail mix and granola bars
  • Instant noodles
  • Snack Food

Formulate a Plan

The Fundamentals

  • List each person your plan will cover and each person’s full contact number.
  • List all supplies and equipment needed for each person in your plan. It may be 72 hours before help can arrive, plan accordingly.
  • Identify any health conditions or disability related needs of your group and include instructions.
  • Decide where you will go if evacuation becomes necessary.
  • Plan your route and include alternate options.
  • Make copies of financial, insurance, and medical records and keep them with your emergency plan.
  • Be sure children and elderly family members know and understand the emergency plan.
  • Each person will need identification and contact information to carry with them in an evacuation, especially children and older adults.
  • Include service animals and pets in your plan

Create Effective Evacuation Steps

  • Be clear about where you will go in an evacuation. Decide if you will stay with friends or relatives in a safe location, stay in a hotel, motel, Airbnb or Vrbo, or go to a county approved shelter. Have pets? Be sure to find a place that can include your furry friends. Do your research early and have a list of available places in the location that suits you. Scrambling at the last minute to find something available that suits your needs can be very stressful.
  • If someone in your evacuation group needs basic medical care on a daily basis, a special needs shelter may be an option.
  • Contact your county emergency management office for more information

Disability Planning

If you or someone you care for has a disability or special needs, you may have to take additional steps to prepare yourself and your family. Knowing what you need months in advance can help you feel calm when the hurricane is on the near horizon.

Form a Support Network

A support network is made up of the people you should involve in your emergency planning that can help you in an emergency. They include nearby family, friends, caregivers, neighbors, and coworkers. Be sure to give at least one trusted member of your support network a key to your home or apartment. Also, let members of your support group know where you store your emergency kit. More importantly, don’t rely on just one person. Have at least three people you can call for help if needed.

Complete a Personal Assessment

Make a list of both your personal needs and your resources in a disaster environment. Take into account what you will be able to do for yourself and what assistance you may need before, during, and after a disaster. This should include daily living needs and your ability to get around before, during, and after a disaster and evacuation, if necessary. South Carolina citizens with disabilities and special needs should register with their local emergency management office.

Write It Down

Keep a copy of important phone numbers and other contact information for loved ones, medical providers, and emergency services as part of your emergency communication plan. After you write down your plan and contact information, be sure to give copies to members of your support network. Always be sure that people who care about you know what your plans are.

Protect Your Pets

As members of your family, your pets should have an emergency supply kit as well.

  • Food – At least a three day supply in an airtight, waterproof container.
  • Water – At least three days of water specifically for your pets.
  • Important documents – Registration information, adoption papers, and vaccination documents. Talk to your veterinarian about microchipping and enrolling in a recovery database. 
  • First aid kit for pets – Cotton bandage rolls, bandage tape, and scissors; antibiotic ointment; flea and tick prevention; latex gloves, isopropyl alcohol, and saline solution. Including a pet first aid reference book is a good idea too.
  • Collar or harness with ID tag, rabies tag, and leash.
  • Crate or pet carrier – Have a sturdy, safe crate or carrier in case you need to evacuate. The carrier should be large enough for your pet to stand, turn around, and lie down.
  • Sanitation – Pet litter and litter box if appropriate, newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags and household chlorine beach.
  • A picture of you and your pet together – If you become separated, a picture of you and your pet together will help you document ownership and allow others to assist you. Add species, breed, age, sex, color, and distinguishing characteristics.
  • Familiar items – Familiar items such as treats, toys, and bedding can help reduce stress for your pet.
  • Medicine and medical records.

What to Do as a Storm Approaches

  • Download a smartphone app that can notify people of where you are, and if you need help or are safe. The Red Cross has a Hurricane app available in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store as well as a shelter finder app. A first aid app is also available.
  • Use hurricane shutters or board up windows and doors with ⅝ inch plywood.
  • Bring outside items in if they could be picked up by the wind.
  • Clear gutters of debris.
  • Turn the refrigeration to its coldest setting in case power goes off. Use a cooler instead of opening freezer or refrigerator doors.
  • Fill a bathtub with water
  • Get a full tank of gas in whichever vehicle you will use for possible evacuation.
  • Anchor objects that would be unsafe to bring inside such as gas grills and propane tanks.
  • Trim or remove trees close enough to fall on your home.
  • Stockpile protective materials such as plastic sheeting and sandbags.
  • Go over your evacuation plan with your family and learn alternate routes to safety.
  • Put an ax in your attic in case of severe flooding.
  • Evacuate if ordered and stick to the marked evacuation routes.
  • Store important documents (passports, social security cards, birth certificates, deeds, insurance documents) in a watertight container.
  • Have a current inventory of household property. Taking pictures might be easiest.
  • Be sure people know where you’re heading.
  • Unplug small appliances and electronics before you leave.
  • If possible, turn off the electricity, gas, and water.

Evacuation Tips

  1. If ordered to evacuate, do not wait or delay your departure.
  2. Select an evacuation destination that is nearest to you if feasible and safe. Keep in mind that hotels and other sheltering options in most inland metropolitan or suburban areas are likely to be filled very quickly. Plan early. If you decide to evacuate to another county or region, be prepared to wait in traffic. The larger the storm, the greater the probability of traffic jams and extended travel times. This is especially so in evacuating Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, and the surrounding area. If possible, make arrangements to stay with a friend or relative who resides closest to your home and who will not have to evacuate. Discuss with your intended host details of your family evacuation plan well before the beginning of the hurricane season.
  3. If a hotel, motel, airbnb, vrbo is your intended final destination during an evacuation, make reservations before you leave. Most hotels and motels will fill quickly once evacuation begins. The longer you wait to make reservations, even if an official evacuation order has not been issued for your area or county, the less likely you are to find room vacancies, especially along interstate highways and in major metropolitan areas.
  4. If you are unable to stay with friends or secure public accommodations then go to a shelter. Remember, shelters are not designed for comfort and do not usually accept pets. Bring your disaster supply kit with you to the shelter.

How Can You Stay Safe After a Hurricane?

If you evacuated, don’t return until local officials have declared it’s safe to enter your community and you have supplies you will need. If your home was damaged by hurricane force winds or flooding after the storm, it should be carefully inspected and thoroughly cleaned.

One of the biggest mistakes a homeowner can make is returning to their property too soon. Many times local authorities will allow residents to return, yet there could still be a lack of water, electricity, or gas.

A safe and prudent thing to do is to engage the services of a home watch company. They can ascertain the damage to your home and even take steps to make it habitable before your return. On Hilton Head Island a reputable and reliable service is The House Butler (843) 384-9750.

Safety Basics

  • Avoid damaged or fallen power lines, poles and downed wires. They can electrocute you.
  • Do not touch floodwaters because they may contain sewage, bacteria, or chemicals that can make you ill.
  • Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal burning devices should never be used inside a home, basement, garage, tent, or camper, or even outside near an open window. Carbon monoxide can’t be seen or smelled but it can kill you fast. If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak get fresh air right away.

How to Clean Up Safely

  • Wear appropriate protective equipment including gloves, goggles, and boots.
  • Clean and disinfect everything that got wet.
  • When cleaning heavy debris work with a partner. Make sure you have proper training before using equipment, such as chainsaws.
  • Heart attacks are a leading cause of deaths after a hurricane. Be mindful of overworking.

Generator Safety Tips

Many people utilize a generator after a hurricane. Heed these tips to have a safe experience.

Fixed, installed generators

Hire a South Carolina licensed electrician to connect the generator to your house wiring using a transfer switch. This will prevent your generator from back feeding utility lines and possibly causing damage to your generator when utility power is restored.

Portable, gasoline-powered generators

  • Thoroughly read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure the safe operation of your generator and avoid dangerous shortcuts.
  • Set it up outside, away from all open windows, including neighbors’ windows, to prevent deadly exhausts from entering a home or business.
  • Use a heavy duty extension cord (rated for outdoor use) to keep the generator safely outdoors. If the appliance has a three prong play, always use a three-prong extension cord.
  • Consider using a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector to ensure that levels don’t  become dangerous
  • Connect appliances directly to the generator itself. Do not wire your generator into your breaker or fuse box.
  • Turn off all connected appliances before starting your generator. Turn connected appliances on one at a time. Never exceed the generator’s rated wattage.
  • Don’t touch a generator if you are wet or are standing in water or on damp ground.
  • Never refuel a hot generator or one that is running. Hot engine parts or exhausts can ignite gasoline.
  • Ensure you have plenty of gas for operation stored safely in gas containers.
  • Don’t leave a running generator unattended; turn it off at night and when away from home.

Storm Damage?

Follow these steps when making repair preparations

  • Contact your insurance agent – Contact your insurance agent first to verify that your insurance covers the repairs before you sign a contract.
  • Verify licenses before you hire or sign a contract.
  • Use your best judgment when signing a contract and making payments.
  • Get a written estimate from several licensed contractors to compare costs. Make sure the estimate includes the work the contractor will do, the materials involved, the completion date, and the total cost.
  • Never pay cash in full before the work is completed and be cautious of writing checks to an individual when dealing with a company. 

Tips For Hiring a State Licensed Contractor

  • Licensed contractors have the appropriate education, the proper workers’ compensation and/or liability insurance, and the necessary experience to complete your project.
  • Before hiring a contractor, ask to see their state issued license. Being registered with the Division of Corporations in South Carolina as a corporation or LLC does not qualify an individual or company to act as a contractor.
  • Beware of contractors who claim to be the fastest or the cheapest. Hiring them could result in poor workmanship, inferior materials, or unfinished jobs.
  • Check with your local building department for additional information about requirements for supplementing permits and licenses.

Be Cautious of Individuals Who….

  • Advertise without a license number
  • Request cash only
  • Use high pressure sales tactics
  • Lack a written contract
  • Demand a full payment upfront
  • Solicit door to door

We’d all like to assume that no one would take advantage of homeowners who return after a hurricane to find a disaster situation at their home. However, that’s not the case. There are many individuals and companies that are ready and able to take advantage of people in this situation. Many times, they aren’t even local companies. They may have travelled far and crossed state lines to prey on vulnerable homeowners.

Tips To Stay Healthy

  • When in doubt, throw it out! Throw out food that got wet or warm. Ask your healthcare provider for guidance if you have refrigerated medicines that got warm.
  • Avoid drinking tap water until local officials say it is safe.
  • Take care of yourself. It’s normal to have a lot of feelings. Eat healthy food and get enough sleep to help you deal with stress. You can contact the Disaster Distress Helpline for free if you need to talk to someone at (800) 985-5990.

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