Emergency Management is committed to enhancing the quality of life in Wilkes County by assisting people to effectively prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate against all hazards and disasters.
The Emergency Management Division is responsible for protecting the people of Wilkes County from the effects of disasters, natural and manmade. Emergency Management was reorganized in 1997 into functional units, using the "Incident Command system (ICS)", the national model for managing emergency operations. This organizational structure mirrors the local incident command structure and the federal Emergency Response Team structure, thus streamlining and simplifying intergovernmental coordination. The six major functional sections are Public Information, Hazard Mitigation, Operations, Logistics, Information and Planning, and Finance. From the County Building in WIlkesboro the Emergency Management Division responds quickly to support local emergency operations.
The work of the Wilkes County Emergency Management Division includes a four phase approach: preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation.
As part of the division's mission to protect public safety, public awareness and information programs are conducted throughout the year, including "The Governor's Hurricane Conference" and "Severe Weather Awareness Week," which are conducted in cooperation with other local, state, federal, and private sector organizations. The division regularly places exhibits at shopping centers and conventions, and presents programs to interested civic groups. The division also conducts workshops on specific threats, such as hurricanes and terrorism, for governmental officials and emergency personnel. The division provides literature, audio-visual materials and speakers to promote hazard awareness and risk reduction.
The Emergency Management Division work to identify and analyze the hazards that may threaten communities, and operations plans are developed accordingly. Emergency Operations Plans address the predictable consequences of disasters, i.e., isolated communities, lost power, downed trees -- regardless of the hazard (hurricane, tornado, earthquakes, nuclear power incidents, and terrorism). These consequences are addressed through functional planning. Functional planning allows emergency planners to focus on operational tactics such as evacuation coordination, shelter operations, search and rescue, power restoration, debris removal, and donated goods. Exercises, ranging from tabletop versions to full-scale mock accidents involving multiple counties, are conducted to validate these state and local operations plans. The division regularly participates with local, state and federal agencies and utilities to test the emergency plans for nuclear power plant.
Training and education programs area also developed and coordinated through the division. The Emergency Management Division regularly conducts classes on such topics as hazardous materials, search operations, emergency response operations, recovery operations, hazard mitigation and public information.
Hazard awareness and emergency preparedness information are critical to the public. The Emergency Alert System (EAS), is a cooperative effort between emergency management and commercial broadcasters across the state. North Carolina radio and television stations voluntarily give broadcast time to alert the public when threats become imminent. Such valuable information aids in saving lives, reducing injuries and lessening the impact on property.
The division's emergency response functions are coordinated in a proactive manner from the State Emergency Operations Center located in Raleigh. Proactive response strategies used by the division include: Area Commands that are strategically located in an impacted region to assist with local response efforts using state resources; central warehousing operations managed by the state that allow for immediate delivery of bottle water, ready to eat meals, blankets, tarps, and the like; field deployment teams manned by division and other state agency personnel that assist severely impacted counties coordinate and prioritize response activity; incident action planning that identifies response priorities and resource requirements 12 to 24 hours in advance. The State Emergency Response Team (SERT), which is comprised of top level management representatives of each state agency involved in response activities, provides the technical expertise and coordinates the delivery of the emergency resources used to support local emergency operations.
When resource needs are beyond the capabilities of state agencies, mutual aid from other unimpacted local governments and states may be secured using the Statewide Mutual Aid agreement or Emergency Management Assistance Compact. Federal assistance may also be requested through the federal Emergency Response Team, which collocates with the SERT during major disasters.
Recovery activities are designed to restore public infrastructure and facilities, and to assist families with securing safe and secure housing. A recovery plan begins with a thorough assessment of damages to facilities, infrastructure, homes, businesses, and agriculture. When the SERT is activated, state agencies are simultaneously activated to begin developing and implementing a recovery plan. The Recovery Team is composed of representatives of state, local and federal agencies as well as such organizations as the Mennonites, American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and church groups who coordinate disaster relief and recovery activities. n this way, prompt assistance can be provided following a disaster or emergency.
When disaster recovery is beyond the capability of local governments and communities, the Governor may use the full resources of the state to support recovery operations. When the disaster is beyond the capability of both the local and state government, the Governor may request the President to declare the event a "Major Disaster." This designation authorizes federal financial assistance to supplement state and local recovery efforts. The federal assistance programs are designed to assist disaster victims begin personal recovery through disaster housing grants and individual assistance in the form of grants and loans, and to assist government agencies recoup disaster expenses and losses. The financial programs traditionally are a cost share between the federal and state government.
Mitigation activities reduce the future impacts of natural and technological hazards on people and property. The priority is to make our homes, businesses and communities as resilient as possible against the impacts of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires and other hazards. Sustainable redevelopment is about making communities more livable than they were prior to the disaster. Regular information and education outreach efforts are conducted to inform citizens, local governments and businesses on specific mitigation measures they can do before a disaster ever occurs in order to reduce potential future losses.
Most hazard mitigation techniques are applied at the local government level, where land use decision are made, growth and development take place, and where hazards occur. In order to address basic local governmental choices about where and how to build, local mitigation plans are created to identify the hazard risks facing a particular jurisdiction. Specific tools and techniques can be used to reduce those risks. This may include acquisition or elevation of flood prone homes, adopting a local flood ordinance, informing citizens about the importance to purchasing flood insurance, and limiting the extension of infrastructure into known high hazard areas.