Help, don’t hinder

Published 2:06 am Saturday, May 31, 2008

By Staff
Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal’s proposal to implement a hurricane-help hotline in his town deserves serious consideration by the Town Council.
If that proposal passes muster, it should be implemented.
It would be even a better idea to implement such a program countywide. John Pack, Beaufort County’s emergency management coordinator, is on record as being impressed with O’Neal’s proposal. Perhaps what may start in Belhaven will become a countywide initiative.
During the council’s meeting earlier this week, O’Neal called for a “hurricane-friendly neighbor program” to help those left in need, especially the elderly and disabled people, when hurricanes strike the area.
The council could approve the program at its June meeting.
The 2008 hurricane season begins Sunday. Having such a program in place in Belhaven should bring comfort to the town’s residents.
Forecasters are calling for 13 to 15 named storms in the Atlantic Ocean this hurricane season, with six to eight of those storms becoming hurricanes. In the past three years, eastern North Carolina has been spared from any widespread major damage from tropical storms and hurricanes. That has some people wondering when the next Hurricane Floyd or Hurricane Hazel will strike the region.
But even forecasters are doing nothing more than making educated guesses, albeit extremely educated guesses.
A recent story by The Associated Press notes that N.C. State University’s Lian Xie, one of those hurricane forecasters, says in a boldface disclaimer in his 2008 forecast: ‘‘Results presented herein are for scientific information exchange only … Users are at their own risk for using the forecasts in any decision making.’’
Forecasters’ predictions on hurricanes should viewed as just that — predictions. If they predict nine major hurricanes and just one strikes eastern North Carolina, residents in that region should at least be prepared. Being prepared could result in being a survivor if a major hurricane strikes eastern North Carolina.
Those preparations should include provisions to make sure the elderly and disabled people are looked after before, during and after a hurricane strikes. They are the people least able to care for themselves. O’Neal’s proposal is nothing more than taking the idea of one person being a good neighbor and turning it into the reality of a town’s residents looking after one another. It’s being a Good Samaritan on a grand scale.
For those better able to look out after themselves, it would be prudent to make preparations for the 2008 hurricane season. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
There are some things worth remembering when it comes to hurricanes. If you decide to remain at home and ride out a hurricane and an emergency occurs, don’t expect a fire engine or ambulance to show up at your door if hurricane winds are blowing. Those winds can easily turn over a fire engine or ambulance. The emergency personnel who use that equipment and the equipment need to be protected, too. If something happens to them, who is going to respond to emergencies when conditions allow responses?
After a hurricane hits, don’t get in the car and ride around looking at destruction caused by the storm. First, such riding around likely will result in some vehicles getting in the way of power crews restoring electricity, cleanup crews removing downed trees and debris from roads and emergency vehicles responding to various emergencies. Second, wakes from vehicles driving through flooded areas can cause erosion problems and damage to structures.
For those who have to do something after a hurricane strikes, check on an elderly neighbor or the disabled person on the next block. Become a helper, not a hindrance.