Hurricane Irene, the first hurricane of the season, is expected to make landfall along the eastern shores later this week with winds gusting as high as 150 mph. We are getting ready for a full East Coast response by preparing shelters for evacuees, pre-positioning numerous emergency response vehicles and disaster supplies, and mobilizing disaster workers to parts of the country expected to see impact from this large storm. The Columbia Region, which spans 28 counties, from Aiken to the Coast of Myrtle Beach, is working with local and state officials to prepare for the storm’s arrival. Click here to track Hurricane Irene.
We are urging South Carolinians to take precautionary measures now by taking three basic actions to prepare yourself for Hurricane Irene and others storms this season, these steps include: 1) Get a kit, 2) Make a plan and 3) Be informed.
It’s important for people in the path of the storm to know that a hurricane watch means hurricane conditions could threaten the area within 48 hours. A hurricane warning means hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours. Those in the affected area should finish their storm preparations and leave the area if authorities ask them to do so.
The Red Cross urges people to take steps over the next few days as the storm approaches to help ensure their safety and the safety of their loved ones. They include:
- Get a three-day supply of water ready for each person on hand, along with food that doesn’t require refrigeration, flashlights, a battery-operated radio and a first aid kit.
- Plan routes to emergency shelters and register family members with special needs as required.
- Make plans for pets.
- Bring items inside that can be picked up by the wind.
- Turn the refrigerator and freezer to the coldest settings and keep them closed as much as possible so food will last longer if the power goes out.
- Turn off any propane tanks and unplug small appliances.
- Fill their vehicle’s gas tank.
- Close windows, doors and hurricane shutters. If hurricane shutters aren’t an option, close and board up windows and doors with plywood.
People in potential evacuation areas should familiarize themselves with the Red Cross Safe and Well website by visiting www.redcross.org/safeandwell so they can let their loved ones know what their situation is due to the hurricane. The site can be also be accessed by going to http://www.redcross.org/safeandwell on a smart phone, or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS. People can also update their Facebook and Twitter status through the Safe and Well site. Affected residents should also download the free Red Cross shelter finder app in the Apple iTunes store.
Red Cross workers in countries in the Caribbean are already responding to Hurricane Irene. InHaiti, where many victims of last year’s earthquake are still living in camps, disaster preparedness activities have been ongoing for months. Ahead of the storm, camp committees were notified and emergency response teams put on alert. TheDominican RepublicRed Cross evacuated residents ahead of the storm and provided emergency shelters for those affected. The Bahamas Red Cross is coordinating with the national emergency office to initiate preparedness activities. And, the Turks and Caicos Red Cross has volunteers ready to assist in community shelters, as well as provide first aid.
American Red Cross disaster preparedness starts long before a hurricane makes landfall, beginning with keeping supplies and equipment on stand-by all year to help people in need. On average, the Red Cross spends about $450 million on disaster relief every year. If you would like to support Red Cross disaster efforts, you can make a donation to American Red Cross Disaster Relief by clicking here, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation, or sending contributions to the American Red Cross, Columbia Region at P.O. Box 91, Columbia, SC 29202.
The Red Cross also depends on volunteers to prepare for, and respond to disasters 365 days a year. If you are interested in becoming a Red Cross disaster volunteer, click here to complete an online application, or call (803) 540-1223.