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Corrections Team Helps with Hurricane Disaster Relief

October 19, 2018

By DOC Communications

four men standing in front of Craven County Sign

Department of Corrections team in Craven County. (Photo Courtesy of North Carolina Craven County)

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Florence was a powerful hurricane that caused severe and extensive damage throughout the Carolinas in September 2018. A total of 35.93 inches of rain fell in Elizabethtown, North Carolina. Hurricane Florence was the wettest tropical cyclone recorded in North Carolina and the eighth-wettest overall in the United States.

Emergency Management Program Specialist Jamison Roberts helped to coordinate the Department of Corrections' Incident Management deployment to North Carolina. The Emergency Operations Unit (EOU) had received the request through a mutual aid agreement known as an Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) request. The compact allows states to share resources during and after both natural and man-made disasters.

EOU is responsible for coordinating these types of requests for the agency. “Emergency management comes down to resources,” said Roberts. “The mobilization and prepositioning of resources prior to the hurricane making landfall greatly reduced the response time. This action enabled the State of North Carolina to meet the resource needs of impacted communities.” Based on previous relationships, the department reached out to representatives from Pierce County’s Incident Management Team to fulfill the request made by North Carolina.

The department’s team consisted of Roberts, Emergency Operations Manager Greg Miller, Stafford Creek Corrections Center Lieutenant Charles Casey and Airway Heights Corrections Center Sergeant Dennis Mossburg. The Pierce County team brought professionals from the Lakewood Police Department, Graham Fire & Rescue, and West Pierce Fire & Rescue. These teams are accustomed to assisting with type 3 incidents, including deployments surrounding wildfires, floods, and working in county emergency operations centers.

Additionally, the soup ladies from Buckley, Washington also traveled to serve warm meals to first responders. One of the soup ladies, Paula Andrew, also works at a female prison in the state. “I was excited to carry out the mission of this wonderful organization, warming the world one bowl at a time.”

During the 14-day deployment, corrections staff helped to track resources, developed evacuation plans for effected communities, and responded to calls for help. The team in collaboration with the North Carolina National Guard and Craven County was also tasked to monitor flood levels, road closures, evacuations, deploy resources to immediate life threatening incidents, order supplies and resources for residents and communicate updates. Five shelters and five resources distribution centers were also managed by the team. At one point, there were 373 resources assigned to Craven County all managed by this team.

The first night was spent in an abandoned K-Mart with 300 other professionals ready to get an early start the next morning.

The following day, the team was assigned to Craven County, home of Pepsi. They drove through the hurricane to their assigned location. The downtown area of New Bern, including the basement and sally port of the old jail where they were to be hosted was flooded. There was no power in town and the emergency operations center was being operated by a generator on the roof of the building. The generator burned up the second night of operation. Within the first 10 days of deployment, the team worked 140 hours per person. According to Emergency Operations Manager Greg Miller, the team they replaced had “been up for 48-72 hours. We could see the exhaustion on their face and their sense of relief that we were there.”

One of the agency’s values is concentrated on community interaction. The Washington Department of Corrections encourages positive interaction with the community as it strives to promote public safety, community protection, and public understanding.

According to Stanley Kite, director of the Craven County Emergency Services, “I could not have been more fortunate to have received the team from Washington State.”

Although the Washington state community was not directly served, it did allow for great partnerships with other agencies and to impart the systematic message of unity.

Miller said, “Over the last seven years, the department has made a significant investment in incident management that allows the emergency team members the opportunity to learn, respond, and partner with agencies across the country. Both the department, our community and others benefit from these experiences. You can’t get this type of training and experience in a classroom. Only by being able to respond to real world disasters, can the department prepare for a big one at home.”