It Takes a Village: Emergency Management Leads Response and Recovery to Hurricane Florence

Friday, October 12, 2018 - 2:01pm

One of the largest storms to ever strike the state, Hurricane Florence devastated communities across eastern and central North Carolina. Several NC Department of Public Safetyagencies were instrumental in response to and recovery from Florence. This is the first in a series on Florence response. 

Were you prepared for disaster? 

As Hurricane Florence set its eye on the east coast, NC Emergency Management (NCEM) officials were already preparing for landfall. The State Emergency Operations Center activated and NCEM worked side by side with the counties, state agencies and other partners, all as part of the State Emergency Response Team (SERT).  

To provide North Carolinians and the media with storm preparation and response information, the Joint Information Center activated staffed by communication officers from various state agencies. The team worked long hours to post social media messages, send news releases, update web sites, support press briefings and ensure that critical information was made available to you.  

The planning section provided the SERT with weather forecasts and daily reports and briefings to ensure officials knew the latest information. There were many threats during Florence and the Risk Management and Planning sections worked together to assess them. Risk Management provided IT support to the emergency operations center to ensure networks were secure and communication could flow. Before landfall, NCEM hydrologists determined the amount of expected rainfall and what the potential flood impacts would be. The biggest concern wasn’t the wind and rain, but flooding and where the floodwaters would go after the storm.

The heart of emergency response lies in the Operations Section. This group coordinates all emergency services, both North Carolina based as well as those emergency personnel who were brought in from 28 other states to help with rescue efforts. Search and rescue teams from North Carolina and around the country rescued more than 5,200 people from Florence floodwaters in our state.

Operations also supported the county-led evacuations and sheltering functions. The Human Services group worked with counties to support shelter operations that provided a safe haven for more than 22,000 people at 150+ locations including opening the first known “mega-shelter” in North Carolina. This group also coordinated kitchen operations, and worked with non-profits to provide 1.7 million meals. 

The Infrastructure group of Operations included representatives from the NC Department of Transportation, utility companies, water supply agencies and dam safety programs to monitor infrastructure impacts. At the height of the storm, more than 800,000 people lost power and more than 1,200 roads closed, including Interstate-95 and Interstate-40. 

Where does all of the people and resources come from to support this response? That’s where the Logistics section comes in.  They ensure there’s enough staffing in the field, coordinate travel and lodging for staff, and supply needed resources to help with disaster recovery. 
During Florence, the logistics section:

  • Answered 1,200 resource requests 
  • Provided more 1.2 million gallons of bottled water
  • Provided 10,000 blankets 
  • Provided 193,000 gallons of fuel 

With an abundance of resources requested, record-breaking floods and infrastructure damaged, Hurricane Florence will certainly be costly. The fiscal section tracks costs, provides reimbursements and will continue to work to pay bills for months after the storm. 

And who helps all of these people recover from Florence? Remember: recovering from a disaster is a marathon, not a sprint. NCEM’s Recovery section and FEMA are working together to open Disaster Recovery Centers in hard hit areas. Recovery specialists will be available to talk to survivors and provide guidance in filling out applications. 

In North Carolina, state and local officials work side by side. The damage caused by Florence would have been worse if it wasn’t for teamwork. Disaster response and recovery takes a village and the all-hands-on-deck approach to disaster helped provide a swift, efficient and coordinated response. The road to recovery may be long, but it’s nothing North Carolina can’t handle.

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One of the largest storms to ever strike the state, Hurricane Florence devastated communities across eastern and central North Carolina. Several NC Department of Public Safetyagencies were instrumental in response to and recovery from Florence. This is the first in a series on Florence response.  

Author: 
Laura Nozedar