Preparation And Partnership Are Key To Disaster Preparedness

New Hanover County promises to keep our community safe, healthy, and secure. I am pleased to say that we kept that promise during Hurricane Matthew, thanks to our dedicated staff and community partners. Our Emergency Management Department did a great job in coordinating the preparedness and response efforts, and I have highlighted their work in my recent Insight article for the Wilmington Business Journal below…

While New Hanover County fared well during Hurricane Matthew, many other counties were not as fortunate. The extent of damages throughout New Hanover County mainly consisted of downed trees and power lines, flooded roads, and power outages. This unpredictable hurricane had everyone in our county on high alert, and rightfully so. I am glad that New Hanover County citizens were prepared and remained vigilant, and that our Emergency Management officials were equipped and ready to ensure our community was safe, healthy and secure.

Many are unaware of what happens behind the scenes during a storm like Matthew. New Hanover County has an Emergency Management Department that monitors the storm, in concert with the National Weather Service. Emergency Management staff keeps the municipalities in the county informed of the storm’s potential impacts and suggest precautionary measures for each entity to take. The City of Wilmington, Wrightsville, Carolina, and Kure Beaches, New Hanover County School officials, human services agencies, and emergency personnel are all close, collaborative partners during this process. By bringing all of these groups together before a storm, Emergency Management officials are able to ensure that a consistent, accurate message is provided to the public, and precautionary steps are taken as they are needed.

With Hurricane Matthew approaching, New Hanover County activated our Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on Friday, October 7 at 11 a.m. With this activation, the county’s Joint Information Center was also initiated and the media and public were able to get timely, up-to-date information about the storm and all of New Hanover County’s protective measures as they occurred. Social media was a great way that our county pushed information to residents and visitors – both preparedness information as well as information during the storm and after. If you aren’t following the county on Facebook or Twitter, you should. It is a great way to know what is happening around the county at all times.

The EOC was staffed by New Hanover County employees, along with representatives from NC Highway Patrol, NCDOT, the American Red Cross, NHC Schools, Department of Social Services, NHC Health Department, CFPUA, Fire Rescue, Sheriff’s Office, Wilmington Fire and Police, fire services from Carolina and Wrightsville Beach, and more. Why so many people? They all carried out emergency support functions before, during and after the storm.

They prepared and staffed three shelters that were open during the storm, and made sure evacuees had enough food and water. They helped facilitate the movement of our special needs population to long-term care facilities that could help them during the storm. They acted as liaisons for Duke Energy and fire personnel when transformers were sparking in the middle of the night. They assisted in the rescue efforts of stranded motorists because of live wires and downed trees.

Every person had a role and our community is safe, healthy and secure because of their help and vigilance throughout the storm.

In an incident like this, New Hanover County does not operate in a silo. Our emergency operation during Matthew was a great example of the cooperative spirit that exists between municipal partners and local and state agencies. I am proud of the way our Emergency Management team handled this storm, and I hope you are too.

As we clean up from Hurricane Matthew and we see the flooding devastation of our neighboring counties, now is the time for all of us to assess our own emergency plans. Many times people focus on their family’s preparedness efforts, which should always come first. But you also need to examine your business’ Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP). Having a plan is one of the most important things a business can do to protect your livelihood and your employees in the event of a disaster.

Shortened production down times, less property damage, and quicker employee return times are just some of the benefits of businesses pre-planning for emergencies. New Hanover County’s Emergency Management Department offers a free service to all businesses and organizations in the county to help with disaster planning.

Our Emergency Management staff will help you write your COOP plan and ensure you have a plan in place for the future. Whether it’s having an off-site storage facility that houses copies of important documents and data, ensuring you have back-up power for critical systems, or that you have a list of your employees’ contact information and their emergency contacts readily available wherever you are. Every facet of the plan is important to think through, and the county can help you do that. More information can be found on the county’s website and by calling 910-798-6900.

New Hanover County practices for emergency situations throughout the year, so that we are always prepared. I believe our preparedness showed during Matthew – it is what our citizens deserve and what we promise. And I hope you will take the time to prepare your own business, so that we can safeguard New Hanover County and the businesses that are so important to all of us.

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