When living near the ocean, a hurricane preparedness plan is integral for a municipality to have in order to help take care of and support the residents should a natural disaster strike. Ensuring the community is informed, sharing best practices and providing shelter and resources are some of the primary ways a city or county can help set their residents up for success.
Carteret County, N.C.
For the past four years, Carteret County in North Carolina has held an annual hurricane expo for the community to help keep residents informed and up to date on best practices for how to prepare for a hurricane.
“We wanted to offer an opportunity where residents and business owners could get crucial storm-related information from vendors at one convenient location,” Jen Sawyer, emergency management coordinator for Carteret County Emergency Services, stated. “The expo promotes hurricane readiness, safety and all hazards preparedness. Attendees have the opportunity to learn about the many services and resources available before, during and after a hurricane.”
The annual hurricane preparedness expo is open and free to the public. While this year was the fourth year for the event, the past couple of years have needed restructuring due to challenges faced with COVID-19.
“Our last expo was a drive-thru event where attendees were able to pick up promotional and educational items from vendors,” Sawyer said. “We were thankful this year we were able to return to a more traditional approach with an in-person event at our civic center.”
At this year’s expo, vendors could offer giveaways of disaster food boxes, gift cards and hold a raffle for a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio.
“We’re constantly looking for ways to expand the event and offer more ways to engage the community,” Sawyer continued. “We’re hoping that next year we can have more participation from our public safety agencies and provide an opportunity for attendees to view apparatuses and other equipment. The National Weather Service will be providing hurricane awareness education, and we will also look at hosting food trucks on-site to attract additional attendees.”
A variety of vendors are included in the hurricane preparedness expo each year. This year’s vendors included: Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative; Veterans Coalition of the Crystal Coast; Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina; Ann Street United Methodist Church Emergency Response Team; North Carolina Emergency Management Office of Recovery; Coastal Carolina Center for Women’s Ministries; North Carolina Cooperative Extension Carteret County Center; Carteret County Health Department; Broad Street Clinic; The Gathering Place Community Kitchen and Outreach; One Harbor Church/ReachGlobal Crisis Response; Loaves and Fishes of Beaufort; Carteret Food Waste and Recovery; Peer Recovery Center of Carteret County; Crystal Coast Habitat for Humanity Inc.; Healthy Blue North Carolina; and RT Power Systems.
However, there is also a core group that goes into planning the preparedness event each year. This core team consists of County Emergency Management, Ann Street United Methodist Church and the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. Each year, planning begins far in advance of the event with discussions regarding venue, advertising and vendor participation. Each organization in this core group has an active role in response and recovery following a hurricane.
Besides the annual preparedness expo, Carteret County Emergency Management promotes hurricane preparedness as the best way to protect against potential hurricane hazards.
“We provide hurricane preparedness presentations to civic and community groups and also hold an annual hurricane forum in cooperation with the National Weather Service,” Sawyer explained. “We also utilize our media outlets to push messaging to encourage hurricane preparedness.”
If another city or county is interested in planning a similar event, Sawyer recommended, “Start planning early and invite stakeholders to participate. Be sure to consider contingencies for weather if using an outside space and try to incorporate some type of virtual engagement if possible for those who may be unable to attend.”
Officials with the city of Hampton, Va., work to encourage general disaster preparedness for the residents and refer individuals and families to ready.gov for information on best practices to prepare for a natural disaster, such as a hurricane. According to Hui-Shan Walker, Hampton’s emergency management coordinator, and Robin McCormick, communications strategist, “We encourage general disaster preparedness planning for families along with having a family disaster plan and disaster supply kit for humans and pets.”
Presentations on preparedness can be arranged for the community if requested. Information is also sent out periodically in the city’s weekly online newsletter as well as information shared via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, NextDoor channels and videos. Hampton coordinates within the region to send messaging to local media so that the media market is not bombarded with the same tips each time the threat of a hurricane arises.
This year, Hampton received a grant from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. “There was an opportunity for grant funds from the state to support shelters with emergency generators,” Walker and McCormick mentioned via email. “When all the power goes out, it allows us to have a safe place for residents during disasters.”
The city applied for the Virginia Emergency Shelter Upgrade Assistance grant fund. Any money awarded from this fund had to be used for providing matching funds for the municipality to install, maintain or repair infrastructure in relation to backup energy generation for local emergency shelters. Hampton was one of only 11 municipalities to receive the grant.
The city of Hampton was awarded $416,771 for the emergency generators from VDEM. The city will then contribute $104,471 toward the project, and the school division will contribute $49,677.
When it came to choosing where to place the generators, Walker and McCormick explained, “The locations were determined through a city shelter committee, which included schools, fire and EMS, Department of Social Services, Hampton Police Department, Virginia Department of Health and emergency management.”
The three locations chosen to install generators were West Hampton Community Center, Bethel High School and Tarrant Middle School. Both the high school and middle school already have generators, but these additional generators will help power the air conditioning and kitchen at the high school as well as the middle school gymnasium.
“By installing these additional generators, it increases our capacity to better serve residents through an emergency,” Walker and McCormick emphasized. “Emergencies can cause prolonged electricity outages. Having generators allows for crucial medical needs, keeping insulin cold or powering oxygen machines, for example. There is also a comfort factor in having air conditioning following a hurricane in extremely hot weather, which can impact health as well.”