The Emergency Management Division works to protect the citizens of Sampson County from the effects of natural and technology hazards. The division is responsible for assisting emergency responders as well as businesses and local government in planning for major emergencies, responding to emergencies, and recovery from disasters.
Preparedness is planning how to respond in case an emergency or disaster occurs and working to increase resources available to respond effectively. Preparedness activities are designed to help save lives and minimize damage by preparing people to respond appropriately when an emergency is imminent.
In order to accomplish this task, the Emergency Management Division has developed the Sampson County Emergency Operation Plan, which is approved by the Sampson County Board of Commissioners. If a major emergency threatens or strikes Sampson County, the Emergency Operation Plan assigns roles and responsibilities to all county departments and agencies. Defining the roles of each response agency reduces confusion, chaos, and conflict during emergencies and significantly decreases the vulnerability of the citizens and their property to hazardous threats.
An emergency or disaster could last from one hour to days or even weeks. It is important that each family prepare for emergencies or disasters. Outside help will get there as quick as possible but help may not be able to get to you due to roads being blocked or impassable. Therefore, it is very important that everyone be prepared to survive on their own for at least 72 hours by completing a family disaster supplies kit and having a family emergency plan. Another way to protect yourself is to be prepared for emergencies before they happen. You can prepare yourself by learning what to do for the specific emergency that may occur such as tornadoes, hurricanes, winter storms, and flooding. Additional information may be obtained from the American Red Cross, FEMA website and the FEMA for Kids website.
Response activities occur during and immediately following a disaster. They are designed to provide emergency assistance to victims of the event and reduce the likelihood of secondary damage. Your local fire departments, law enforcement agencies, rescue squads and emergency medical services are the primary responders. The Emergency Management division has staff on call 24 hours a day to respond to incidents.
The response phase consists of five basic stages:
- Immediate Public Safety
- Property Security
- Public Welfare
The Emergency Operation Center will be activated at the Emergency Management Services Office during large-scale emergencies to assure central coordination of response and resources. Shelters have been designated in Sampson County in accordance with the multi-hazard disaster response plan. Shelter operations in Sampson County is a cooperative effort of public/private facilities, schools, Social Services, Health Department, Emergency Management and Red Cross. In 1999, shortly after Hurricane Floyd, several local businesses donated funds for the purchase of six shelter trailers, which are utilized to store and transport many of the items needed for Sheltering Operations. Each of the six units are equipped with generators, emergency lighting, 150 cots, 150 blankets, as well an administrative trunk for registering evacuees and a nursing trunk for emergency care.
The purpose of developing a Mitigation Plan is to identify policies and procedures that can be implemented to reduce risk and future losses. Mitigation Plans form the foundation for a community's long-term strategy to reduce disaster losses and break the cycle of disaster damage, reconstruction, and repeated damage. During the planning phase, risk-based decision assessments are implemented to reduce damages to property. North Carolina Emergency Management summarizes hazard mitigation as follows: “Hazard mitigation involves the use of specific measures to reduce the impact of hazards on people and the built environment. Measures may include both structural and non-structural techniques, such as protecting buildings and infrastructure from the forces of nature or wise floodplain management practices. Actions may be taken to protect both existing and/or future development. It is widely accepted that the most effective mitigation measures are implemented before an event at the local government level, where decisions on the regulation and control of development are ultimately made.” Mitigation is actions taken to reduce potential damages before a disaster threatens. Examples of mitigation activities are the relocation of buildings from hazard areas, strengthening building codes, structure elevations, risk assessments and proper planning. Research has shown that much can be done to prevent major emergencies or disasters from ever happening, or if nothing else, at least reduce the damaging impact if they cannot be prevented.
States and Local governments benefit from mitigation planning by:
- Identifying cost effective actions for risk reduction that are agreed upon by stakeholders and the public
- Appropriating resources on the greatest risks and vulnerabilities
- Developing partnerships by including people, organizations, and businesses
- Providing hazards and risk education and awareness
- Relaying priorities to officials at the state and federal level
- Developing risk reduction strategies and plan objectives.
Recovery is the activity, which is necessary to restore the infrastructure systems to minimum operating standards, and long-term activities designed to return life to normal or improved levels. Recovery can be divided into short-term and long-term recovery efforts. Short-term recovery is the restoration of vital services and facilities to minimum standards of operation and safety. Long-term recovery from a disaster may take days, weeks, months or even years before the entire disaster area is completely redeveloped. Recovery is the hardest phase of a disaster and requires personal as well as community motivation.
The recovery phase includes: debris clearance, damage assessment, disaster assistance centers, disaster grants or loans, crisis counseling, reconstruction and/or temporary housing.
How quickly a community recovers from a disaster depends on the type of event, the size of area involved, and the capabilities of resources as well as many other possibilities. After a disaster, help will be available, but not everyone can be reached immediately. Depending upon the type and magnitude of the disaster, it could take hours or even days. Preparedness is your best protection and proper planning prior to a disaster is essential.