Archived Story

Council addresses hurricane preparedness

Published 4:35pm Thursday, August 29, 2013

With September and October — the historic heart of the hurricane season in eastern North Carolina — on the horizon, Washington’s City Council has concerns about hurricane preparedness.

Those concerns were addressed during the council’s meeting Monday.

The council was told that when winds reach a specific threshold, response by city emergency personnel ends. That policy protects personnel and equipment that would be needed in the aftermath of a hurricane.

“When we determine that wind speeds are sustained at 50 mph, we cease operations,” said Robbie Rose, chief of the Washington Fire-Rescue-EMS Department.

Councilman Bobby Roberson, saying he wanted to do away with some confusion, asked Rose to explain how the city and Beaufort County work together during a hurricane.

“The question I have is about operating procedure … and how we coordinate with the county with their (emergency) operations center. I’m a little bit confused. In past hurricanes that we’ve had before, there has been some confusion about our staff interacting with their staff. … Can you help me out a little bit with what exactly is the process and what we’re supposed to do? It’s not in the book,” Roberson said.

During and after a hurricane, the city (which has its own emergency operations center) operates under the county’s umbrella and the state’s umbrella, Rose said.

“Typically, we have our emergency operations center. We place a liaison person in the county’s center. What that person is supposed to do (is relay information). Any information coming out of our operations center, anything that we need from the county or from the state level, anything we need state level is going to go through the county,” Rose said. “Ideally, the information should travel from our operations center to our liaison out at the county’s operation center. We’ve put people in there in the past — and I know information flow may get confused — but, ideally, that’s the way it’s supposed to work.”

Councilman Doug Mercer said, “The book says that when you open your operations center, you notify the county EOC.”

“That’s correct. We staff a person in there. … When we’re overwhelmed with needs in the city that we’re going to need assistance on, we send it to that person. Another thing we do is we send updated information on what’s going on the city — power loss, evacuations so on and so forth so the county knows what’s going on within the city of Washington,” Rose said.

“We also coordinate — usually it comes down to the point in a severe storm where I need to declare a state of emergency. We’ve always coordinated that with the county,” Mayor Archie Jennings said.

Roberson said he’s concerned that some city residents find it difficult to find temporary housing during and after a hurricane because evacuees from areas along the coast come to Washington and avail themselves of that temporary hosing. That leaves some city resident displaced, which should not occur, he said.

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