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Oct 24, 2016

Preparation And Partnership Are Key To Disaster Preparedness

Sponsored Content provided by Chris Coudriet - County Manager, New Hanover County Government

New Hanover County is prepared for disasters. We hope your business is, too.

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 citizens were prepared and remained vigilant, and that New Hanover County 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’s Emergency Management Department 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, as well as Wrightsville, Carolina and Kure beaches, New Hanover County school district 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 a consistent, accurate message is provided to the public and precautionary steps are taken as needed.

With Hurricane Matthew approaching, New Hanover County activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at 11 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 7. 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 our county pushed information to residents and visitors – both preparedness information as well as information during and after the storm. If you aren’t following the county on Facebook or Twitter, you should; they will help you stay in the know about the county at all times.

The EOC was staffed by New Hanover County employees, along with representatives from the following: N.C. Highway Patrol; NCDOT; American Red Cross; New Hanover County Schools; New Hanover County Department of Social Services; New Hanover County Health Department; Cape Fear Public Utility Authority; New Hanover County Fire Rescue; New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office; Wilmington Fire and Police departments; fire services from Carolina and Wrightsville beaches; 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 Progress 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, as well. 

As we clean up from Hurricane Matthew and 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 you, as a business owner, 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 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 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 simply 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 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.

New Hanover County is committed to progressive public policy, superior service, courteous contact, judicious exercise of authority, and sound fiscal management to meet the needs and concerns of our citizens today and tomorrow. See more at http://www.nhcgov.com.

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