By Catharin Shepard •
Staff writer •
Even in the middle of a pandemic, Hoke County Emergency Management is about to help citizens prepare for a more familiar type of disaster.
The Atlantic hurricane season starts June 1, and from May 3-9 North Carolina is recognizing Hurricane Preparedness Week.
“North Carolina knows all too well the damage and disruption that hurricanes can bring, but being prepared can help people fare better and recover quicker,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement about his proclamation. “Especially with COVID-19 affecting everyone’s daily lives, now is the time to make sure you and your family are ready this hurricane season.”
Planning for hurricane response while factoring in COVID-19 is something a little different. Hoke County Emergency Management Coordinator Andrew Jacobs plans to meet next week with other county departments, including the Department of Social Services, Health Department, Sheriff’s Office, HATS, and the school system to discuss strategies.
“We’re going to talk through our best approach to this thing, and use the technical advice from the health director on what kind of approach we take,” Jacobs said Monday.
Hoke Emergency Management hasn’t stopped working on its preparedness ever since the last hurricane. Jacobs has worked with other county officials, and state and federal agencies to shore up the county’s hurricane response plans.
The county managed to acquire federal grant funding to help deal with drainage issues in the Goose Pond Road area, which dealt with standing water for weeks after previous storms. Work on that project is ongoing. Last year, another grant helped the county buy a quick response vehicle that will carry chainsaws and other equipment so crews can more easily clear fallen trees from roadways.
The Hoke Board of Commissioners also planned part of the Robert A. Wright Hoke County Agriculture Building as a temporary emergency shelter for residents who need a safe place to go during a hurricane. The building isn’t open yet, but should be open well ahead of the peak hurricane months of September and October, Jacobs said.
If the county does have to open a temporary emergency shelter, officials want to have a plan in place for following social distancing.
“We need to make sure that this process is appropriate for social distancing all the way through,” Jacobs said.
That could mean reducing the occupancy allowed at a shelter, or using new approaches to how they spread out cots. Mealtimes in temporary emergency shelters will also have to change to reduce contact.
One thing that Emergency Management wants to prepare for early, given the COVID-19 pandemic, is stocking up on personal protective equipment (PPE).
“Our primary focus for this storm season is making sure we have enough PPE, to make sure these residents have the appropriate thing to keep themselves safer,” Jacobs said.
Overall, the county is ahead of the curve on hurricane planning, the coordinator said.
• Hurricane preparedness •
North Carolina Emergency Management suggests residents make an emergency plan for hurricane season, and put together an essential emergency kit.
Typical items for an emergency kit include: nonperishable food and water for every member of your family for several days; copies of insurance cards/papers and identification sealed in a watertight plastic bag; a first-aid kit; a weather radio and batteries; prescription medicines; a sleeping bag or blankets; changes of clothes; hygiene items such as toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and deodorant; cash; pet supplies including food, water, leashes, bedding, muzzle and vaccination records; hand sanitizer and face masks.
More information on hurricanes and overall emergency preparedness can be found on the ReadyNC website at www.ReadyNC.org.