Hurricane season is here, and USC experts advise residents to prepare supplies, stay connected, move to a safe location and prepare for power outages to protect themselves.
South Carolina has felt the effects of hurricanes and tropical storms as recent as Tropical Storm Idalia on Aug. 30, which caused heavy rainfall leading to numerous locations in the state being flooded.
Brett Robertson, an assistant professor in the College of Information and Communications, said the first precaution Columbia residents should take is building an emergency supply kit.
"Building a supply kit is one of the best ways that you can have protection on hand before a disaster strikes," Robertson said. "Something that you can do on your own that is going to potentially be useful in a disaster."
Robertson said people should reference the Federal Emergency Management Agency for suggestions on what to pack in their supply kits. On its website, the agency suggests individuals pack water, food, a flashlight, a first aid kit, local maps, a cell phone with chargers and spare batteries and that they are prepared with enough supplies for at least 72 hours away from home.
Robertson said that residents should also try to stay connected with their friends and family during a storm, and that social media can be especially helpful during emergencies.
"A lot of people use social media as a way to gather information about news and what's happening in real time," Robertson said. "Learning how to use these platforms to our benefit is really key towards understanding how a lot of the public are using technology in many facets, but sometimes are amplified during disasters."
Fabio Matta, an associate professor in the College of Engineering, said finding good shelter during a storm is also important. An ideal place to shelter would be a small, windowless room on the lowest level of a sturdy building according to FEMA.
"For those of us living along the path of a severe storm, make sure you're in a safe location," Matta said. "The same applies to those living in areas that are vulnerable to flooding, even more so if these are isolated or rural areas with less access points."
If residents are not ordered to evacuate, they should shelter in an interior room away from windows on a low floor according to the National Weather Service.
Matta also said that people should make sure that there is gas in their tank or that the EV battery in their vehicle is charged before a storm. Residents should rely on South Carolina's official sources, like the South Carolina State Climatology Office and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to be informed on conditions and path of the storm.
Another issue that Columbia residents face during hurricane season is the loss of power.
"A lot of people don't realize that the biggest problem for Columbia is not going to be water. It's going to be the loss of power, down trees, down power lines, so they've got to be prepared for that," said Susan Cutter, professor at the Department of Geography and co-director of the Hazards, Vulnerability and Resilience Institute.
Cutter also said residents should be prepared for when typical devices or systems don't work.
"The first thing is to make sure that all of their devices are charged, that they have power," Cutter said. "You also should have some cash on-hand because if the power goes out, ... your ATMs (and credit cards) are not going to work."
People should prepare to be on their own for three days, Cutter said, and it is crucial that they prepare supplies before the storm.
"It's also important to follow trends related to weather and read and try to understand weather forecast," Robertson said. "It's important to continue to monitor because things can change really quickly."
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Columbia residents can expect another hurricane or multiple hurricanes before the season ends on Nov. 30.