Natural disasters are serious business. Hurricanes Michael (10/2018) and Hermine (9/2016) and the wildfire on St. George Island (4/2017) remind us all of the need to prepare for emergencies. Our life on this fragile island requires greater diligence than at many other locations.
Following, you’ll find information — critical instructions and helpful lists — to prepare for an emergency in the Plantation. Most of the information pertains to hurricanes, as that is the most likely emergency. Hurricane season is June 1 to November 30 each year, and St. George Island is in Evacuation Zone A, the first to be evacuated when a storm is imminent. The Plantation has over 900 properties, including over 530 homes, making it imperative that all owners take responsibility for their property.
We organized the following information into three categories. You will learn about what you should do before storm season starts, what to do during a storm, and how to respond after the storm passes. We also provide information about preparation for wildfires.
Part-1: Pre-Emergency Planning & Preparation
Sign Up for Alerts
- SGPOA alerts: The SGPOA alerts owners by text, email and voicemail of events affecting the safety of Plantation. When you register as an owner, you are automatically put on the alert list.
- Franklin County Emergency Management (FCEM): The Alert Franklin System sends emergency notifications in case of man-made or natural disasters, including wildfires. The system also alerts for bridge closures, evacuation notices, as well as other non-weather related emergencies.
Obtain a re-entry tag from Franklin County Emergency Management (FCEM).
You will need a re-entry tag to get back onto the island following an evacuation. Re entry tags no longer expire so if you already have one and your address has not changed, cross out the expiration date and put NA in that space.
Prepare your property for your absence:
- Make arrangements for someone to prepare your property and check on it after an evacuation if you will not be able to do it yourself. Note that SGPOA Security cannot provide this service. If you want to contact owners who live near you, log onto the website; on the Owners page, click on Plantation Directory and then search by road name in the Search window.
- Provide an extra set of house and car keys to your contact person and plan where to park vehicles on higher ground.
- Keep propane tanks at least half full so they won't float away during storm surge.
- Know how to turn off your water heaters, your septic system pumps, your propane tanks and the water to your whole house at the main valve by the meter.
- Periodically test hurricane shutters and back-up generators (make sure they are fueled).
Prepare yourself and your family, including pets, for an emergency evacuation:
- NOTE: There are no emergency shelters anywhere in Franklin County.
- Make an evacuation plan for your family (including how you will communicate) and your pets (including pet-friendly accommodations and vaccination records).
- FEMA also recommends that you have a Communication Plan in place so your family can keep in touch during and after an emergency.
- Put together an emergency kit in a waterproof container, including flashlights, batteries, first aid items and medications, water, food, blankets, insect spray and sunscreen, etc.
- Place important documents and valuables in a waterproof, portable container or make sure they are backed up in another location and/or electronically.
- Prepare your cell phone by keeping a car charger handy and making sure you have useful apps downloaded.
Part 2: Storm Watch - Prepare for Evacuation
Complete the items on this list if a storm watch is issued OR if you leave your home for an extended time during hurricane season.
Secure your property:
- Bring in or tie down ALL exterior items - furniture, pots, garbage cans, bikes, kayaks, grills, etc.
- Secure hurricane shutters or other exterior window coverings.
- Secure all doors, gates, screen doors, etc.
- Move items at ground level (storage room and entry) to a higher location to protect from flooding.
- Open storm surge vents in entry or lower level (newer homes have interior floats that open automatically as water rises).
- Move extra vehicles including golf carts to higher ground.
- Fill car that you will use during evacuation with gas.
- Prepare your refrigerator and freezer in case of power outage, using or removing the most perishable foods, turning off the ice maker, and turning both to their coldest settings.
Prepare yourself to leave quickly:
- Pack a bag with clothes, shoes, toiletries, and medications.
- Pack a bag with pet supplies including vaccination records.
- Check your disaster kit and place in your car.
- Put your container of documents in your car.
Part 3: Storm Warning — Evacuation Issued
Evacuate if a mandatory evacuation is issued! If you have prepared properly, there is little you can do to protect your property during a storm. Remaining in an evacuation area only puts your family and others, including first responders, at risk. During an evacuation, all Plantation buildings as well as the Gate are closed and staff evacuates. When winds reach 45 mph, the bridges close and you will be trapped if you wait too long to leave.
Take final actions for your property:
- Turn off septic system pumps.
- Turn off propane tanks.
- Turn off water at the main water valve.
- Set AC to 78 degrees.
- Raise elevators to top level.
- Unplug small appliances.
Move to Safety:
- Pack up cell phones, laptops, and other electronic devices you will need along with their chargers.
- Gather your pets and their bag of supplies.
- Place all your packed bags in your car and follow your planned evacuation route and communication plan.
Part 4: During the Storm
Do not call the office (it will be closed) or Security (they will be busy with assigned duties and cannot respond to individual member’s questions). Staff will use the automated system to send alerts via email and text or phone with any updated information they receive.
You can call Franklin County Emergency Management (FCEM) at (850) 653-8977 or check their website for updates.
Part 5: After the Storm
Do not attempt to return to the Plantation until you are notified via an alert that the bridge is open, the Plantation gate is open, and roads are passable. You will need your county-issued re-entry pass. Non-resident sightseers are not permitted on the island immediately after a storm. If you are having another person or company check your property, remember to authorize a Gate Pass for non-registered vendors or they may not be allowed entry to the Plantation.
Do NOT call Security. Security will be checking all common property for damage and that includes driving all roads that are passable. If Security observes major damage to private property, they will notify the owner. Due to insurance issues, SGPOA staff members CANNOT go into your home or walk around your private property looking for damage.
Owners will be notified if the SGPOA Natural Disaster Recovery Policy will go into effect. Please follow the procedures as instructed. If the policy does not go into effect, owners will be responsible for disposing of all debris on their property. Do NOT place any debris, including vegetation, on the road or right-of-way including in front of your property. Vegetation may be taken to the maintenance area at the airport; however, the owner must accompany any non-owner helping with disposal. All other debris must be taken to the Franklin County Landfill in Eastpoint. For scheduled times, solid waste disposal, and amnesty days visit their website here — Franklin County Landfill.
Part 6: Wildfire Preparation
If there is a fire in the Plantation, do not attempt to drive out. Emergency vehicles will need to be able to use Leisure Lane! Make your way to the beach. SGPOA alerts will let you know when to leave and when it is safe to return to your home so make sure you are signed up for text or phone alerts per the instructions on the Part 1: Pre-Emergency Planning and Preparation section.
If you would like to read about making your property more Firewise, go to www.firewise.org.
If you decide you want to make your property Firewise, you must follow the SGPOA Firewise Approval Process through the ARC.