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Are we ready for disaster?

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COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) - Be prepared. Two words you always hear when it comes to emergencies.

But, how many people actually have a plan in place? It's worth thinking about.

It's something emergency management officials are always thinking about it.

From ice storms, to hurricanes and "one thousand year flooding," the Midlands and the state has been hit by the worst Mother Nature can dish out since 2014.

"One of the things in emergency managment that we know is important is the building of relationships," said Kim Stenson, the director of the South Carolina Emergency Management Division.

Stenson has been at the forefront of that since taking the helm of the agency in 2013. That's why he says disaster response training exercises like one this week with military officials from across the state are so important.

Whether it's dealing with something like Hurricane Matthew, more recently, Irma, or even something potentially man-made, planning is crucial.

"I think we found out with all four events that we didn't have any systemic failures. so that speaks well to the planning, training, and exercising," said Stenson.

But, no amount of planning could prepare someone for the mental toll of the 2015 floods.

It's something Stenson says he'll always carry with him. Dozens of dams failed, and lives and property were lost under the tremendous force of water.

More than two years later, the rebuilding continues.

"At least 100,000 were impacted in some way or form. They're out of their homes. They're at personal risk. It's very difficult to predict where water's going to go during a flood," said Stenson. "Places that never really flooded before flooded during that event. Putting people back together takes a lot of time and effort."

Disaster response officials like Stenson are always watching situations elsewhere.

In August, Hurricane Harvey was one of those. That monster storm did tremendous damage in Texas.

So could South Carolina withstand a powerful direct hit like that?

Stenson says "yes," after coastal evacuations and lane reversals were put into effect ahead of major storms over the last two years.

"I'd say that we would do well because we've already demonstrated that during some pretty serious incidents during the last couple of years," said Stenson. "It's a matter of scope. It would affect more people and would probably affect a bigger geographic area. But, I'm confident we'd do well."

Readiness doesn't only live under the roof of the state's Emergency Operations Center, Stenson says it needs to live under yours as well because disaster can strike at any time.

"I think everyone needs to be your own emergency manager. You're going to have to, at least for a period of time, take care of yourself," said Stenson. "Have a plan, be your own emergency manager, have a plan and know what you're going to do in certain situations."

There is still a month left in the 2017 hurricane season, so Stenson suggests that everyone review the South Carolina Hurricane Guide to help come up with a plan for you and your family.

Officials are also reviewing the impact of Hurricane Irma in Puerto Rico. Many people are still without power there.

In mid-November, state emergency officials and utilities will conduct a drill to see how the state would respond to a large scale power failure like that.

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