Governor McCrory Proclaims October 16 as Earthquake Preparedness Day

Governor Pat McCrory has proclaimed October 16 as Earthquake Preparedness Day and is encouraging North Carolina families, business and schools to practice how to protect themselves in an earthquake by using three simple steps: drop, cover and hold.

“Although rare, earthquakes do happen in North Carolina, so it is always best to be prepared,” McCrory said. “This year, the state has already experienced four minor earthquakes. While those were mild, we remember the impacts from the Virginia earthquake three years ago. Knowing what to do will help keep you safe.”

An estimated 100 million people felt the earthquake in Mineral, Virginia on August 23, 2011 that damaged homes and buildings in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

If you feel shaking, emergency management and earthquake officials recommended that you:

  • Drop to the ground
  • Take cover under a sturdy desk or table 
  • Hold on to the desk until the shaking stops. 
  • If there is no table or desk nearby, crouch in an inside corner of a building and cover your head and neck with your hands and arms.  
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, bookshelves, lamps, TVs, cabinets and other objects as much as possible. Such items may fall and cause injuries.   

Do not get in a doorway. It is not safe and does not protect you from falling or flying objects.

Do not run outside. Running in an earthquake is dangerous. The ground is moving making it easy to fall or be injured by falling structures, trees, debris or glass. If you are outside during an earthquake, move to a clear area that is away from trees, signs, buildings or downed electrical lines.

McCrory encouraged North Carolinians to join the other Southeastern states and Washington, D.C., in the third Great SouthEast ShakeOut earthquake exercise, scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 16 at 10:16 a.m.

Families, businesses and schools can register their participation at www.shakeout.org/southeast. Participants will be notified of events in their area and receive regular information on how to plan their drill and become better prepared for earthquakes and other disasters.  

More earthquake preparedness tips can be found online at www.ReadyNC.org. North Carolinians can also download the free ReadyNC mobile app – available for both iPhone and Droid devices – that provides real-time weather and traffic alerts plus readiness tips for a variety of emergencies.

“Ground shaking from earthquakes typically lasts only a minute or two, but aftershocks can continue for several days,” said North Carolina’s Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry.  “It only takes a few minutes to rehearse what to do in such an emergency.” 

Source: North Carolina Division of Emergency Management


Damaging Thunderstorms Possible Tonight and Tomorrow

Widespread showers and storms will accompany a cold front as it tracks into central North Carolina late tonight and Wednesday. An isolated storm could become severe, with a primary threat of damaging winds or an isolated tornado. The potential for severe weather will be greatest early Wednesday morning. Widespread rainfall amounts of an inch or more can be expected due to the slow movement of this system. Minor flooding will be possible,  especially in urban areas. An isolated severe storm will remain possible along the cold front through Wednesday morning.

Severe Weather 10.14


Severe Weather Threat Tuesday (10/14)

The National Weather Service in Raleigh is forecasting severe weather tomorrow (Tuesday 10/14) evening into tomorrow night. The main threat is severe thunderstorms with strong winds and localized flooding. Also, an isolated tornado cannot be ruled out. Please pay close attention to the weather tomorrow! For the most up-to-date information, refer to the National Weather Service and local media outlets. Below is an excerpt from tomorrow’s Hazardous Weather Outlook for Guilford County.

“…NUMEROUS SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS WILL ACCOMPANY A SLOW MOVING COLD FRONT AS IT TRACKS EAST INTO THE WESTERN PIEDMONT LATE TUESDAY EVENING AND TUESDAY NIGHT. A FEW STORMS COULD BECOME SEVERE…WITH A PRIMARY THREAT OF DAMAGING WINDS OR AN ISOLATED TORNADO. IN ADDITION TO THE POTENTIAL FOR SEVERE WEATHER…WIDESPREAD RAINFALL AMOUNTS OF AN INCH OR MORE CAN BE EXPECTED DUE TO THE SLOW MOVEMENT OF THIS SYSTEM…”

Take time now and prepare for the severe weather threat. For preparedness and safety information, visit the ReadyGuilford website. Also, take time and review your severe weather safety plans with your family and co-workers.

Please prepare now and stay safe!


Ebola Preparedness in Guilford County

The 2014 Ebola epidemic is the largest in history, affecting multiple countries in West Africa. More recently, the first travel-associated case of Ebola to be diagnosed in the United States was confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on September 30, 2014, an event that has understandably led to an increased level of concern in the general public.

Although the risk of an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. is very low, the CDC, the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) and the Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services (GCDHHS), along with key community partners, are taking steps to keep this from happening.

For instance, GCDHHS (Division of Public Health) in conjunction with state and federal agencies, local health care systems, and Guilford County Emergency Services are actively monitoring for cases using a variety of methods, including surveillance of hospital emergency department visits and outpatient clinic visits. Guilford County Public Health has been working closely with local hospitals and other public health partners, including healthcare providers and emergency responders throughout the county to coordinate a comprehensive management plan in the event that an Ebola case were to occur in the area. Therefore, if an Ebola case occurred in Guilford County, state and local public health professionals would rapidly identify everyone who was potentially exposed and take immediate measures to prevent further spread. Both state and local public health professionals have extensive training and experience with this type of investigation and response. To date, no cases of Ebola have been identified in North Carolina.

So what do you need to know about the Ebola virus? Dr. Laura Bachmann, Public Health’s Medical Director and a Professor of Infectious Diseases at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, stresses the following reminders:

  • A person infected with Ebola cannot spread the disease until symptoms appear. Symptoms or signs of the disease appear from 2 to 21 days after exposure though the average time from exposure to symptoms is 8 to 10 days.
  • Symptoms of Ebola include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea or unexplained bleeding or bruising.
  • Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or through mucous membranes such as can be found in the eyes, nose or mouth) with blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with Ebola, and through direct contact with objects like needles or syringes that have been contaminated with the blood and body fluids of a person sick with Ebola.
  • Ebola is NOT spread through the air, through water or through food.

What can you do to protect yourself from Ebola? Dr. Bachmann endorses the current CDC guidance which includes the following steps:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Do not touch the blood or body fluids (for example, urine, feces, saliva, vomit, sweat and semen) of people who are sick.
  • Do not handle items that may have come in contact with a sick person’s blood or body fluids and do not touch the body of someone who has died of Ebola.

Finally, Dr. Bachmann advises the following, “Keep in mind that we are getting into cold and flu season and that many people will have similar symptoms from much more common illnesses – not Ebola! Get your flu shot and other recommended vaccinations. Do not go to work or school if you are sick. Check in with your health care provider should you become ill and make sure to tell your health care provider if you have traveled recently from a country where the Ebola outbreak is ongoing or if you have possibly had contact with a person infected with Ebola.”

For more information and updates, contact Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health at (336) 641-6500.


Millions to Participate in Earthquake Drill October 16

North Carolina Public Safety Secretary Frank L. Perry encourages North Carolinians to join more than one million people across six southeastern states and the District of Columbia who have committed to participate in the third Great Southeast ShakeOut.

The regional earthquake drill, set to be held on Oct. 16 at 10:16 a.m., has participants simultaneously practice what to do to protect themselves in an earthquake.

“Earthquakes are rare in North Carolina, but four already have occurred this year in the western part of the state. Knowing what to do and practicing three simple steps will better protect you in an earthquake,” said Secretary Perry.

Emergency management and earthquake experts recommend the following actions in an earthquake:

  • DROP to the ground (before the earthquake makes you fall)
  • Take COVER under a sturdy desk or table
  • HOLD ON to the desk until the shaking stops.

If there is no table or desk nearby, crouch in an inside corner of a building and cover your head and neck with your hands and arms.  Stay away from bookshelves, lamps, TVs, cabinets and other objects as much as possible. Such items may fall and cause injuries.

Perry said residents, schools, communities and businesses can register to participate at www.shakeout.org/southeast. The website also offers resources to help you plan an earthquake drill including instruction manuals, videos, audio drill broadcasts, earthquake scenarios and more.

Great ShakeOut Earthquake drills are being held in more than 45 states and territories. More than 22 million people worldwide are expected to participate in the activity. ShakeOut participants include individuals, schools, businesses, local and state government agencies, and many other groups. The program’s goal is to engage individuals to take steps to become better prepared for earthquakes and other disasters.  

Download the free ReadyNC mobile app that provides for safety tips and real-time weather and traffic information.

Source: North Carolina Department of Public Safety


Homeland Security Begins with Hometown Security

Homeland security begins with hometown security! An alert public plays a critical role in keeping our nation safe. Strengthening hometown security involves educating the public on the necessity to be aware of suspicious activity and to report that activity to local law enforcement. If You See Something, Say Something™! If you see something suspicious taking place then report that behavior or activity to local law enforcement or in the case of emergency call 9-1-1. The public should report suspicious behavior and situations such as a unattended backpack in a public place or someone trying to break into a restricted area. Keep in mind, factors such as race, ethnicity, national origin, or religious affiliation alone are not suspicious.

For more information on the If You See Something, Say Something™ program, visit the Department of Homeland Security website.

Source: US Department of Homeland Security


Fire Prevention Week Extravaganza

Greensboro Fire Department is hosting a “Passport to Safety” event on Saturday, October 4th, 11am-2pm. This is a FREE event, open to the community. It was a huge success last year and this year even more has been added!! Police, Fire, EMS, Red Cross, Safe Guilford, and many more are coming to participate! Inflatable’s, activities, prizes & more!

FPW Open House


Enterovirus – Important Information from Public Health

DHHS LogoState officials have confirmed several children in North Carolina have been diagnosed with the Enterovirus, a respiratory illness that ranges from mild to severe. In response to this news, the Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services has released the following information:

Enterovirus (EV) Information:

  • EVs are very common viruses; there are more than 100 types, including EV-D68.
  • An estimated 10 to 15 million EV infections occur in the United States each year.
  • Infants, children and teenagers are most likely to be infected and become sick with EVs, because they may not have been exposed to EVs and have not yet built up immunity to them.
  • Most EV infections in the United States occur seasonally during the summer or fall.
  • Most people infected with EV have only mild illness, but some may have severe respiratory symptoms.

Symptoms of an EV:

  • Fever
  • Runny nose, sneezing or cough
  • Skin rash
  • Mouth blisters
  • Body and muscle aches

Treatment:

  • There is no specific treatment for EV or EV-D68, many infections are self-limiting and require only treatment for symptoms.
  • Some people with severe respiratory illness caused by EV-D68 may need to be hospitalized and receive intensive supportive therapy.
  • No anti-viral medications are currently available for EV or EV-D68 infections.

Prevention:

  • No vaccine is currently available.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid kissing, hugging and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.

For more information, contact Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services at (336) 641-7777 or www.guilfordhealth.org , your health care provider or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at http://www.cdc.gov/non-polio-enterovirus/ .

Para información en español: Enterovirus FS 9-2014 Doc SP 091814 (2)236.0 KiB26

Fire Department Hosts Carnival to Kickoff Fire Prevention Week

GFD PatchThe Greensboro Fire Department is kicking off Fire Prevention Week with its Fire and Life Safety Carnival “Passport to Safety” from 11 am to 2 pm Saturday, October 4 at Fire Station One, 1510 N. Church St. Parents and children will be able to visit interactive stations set up on the fire department drill ground. For each safety station completed, children will be given a stamp in their passport book and the chance to win prizes.

Safety stations include American Red Cross, Bike Rodeo, Medicine Safety, Distracted Driving, Seatbelt Safety, Fire Hose Challenge, and the Firefighter Combat Challenge. The fire department is also providing free popcorn and cotton candy.

Source: City of Greensboro Fire Department


Weathering the Storms: Improving North Carolina’s Ability to Respond

Sixty years ago, the United States was on the verge of entering the conflict in Vietnam. Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio. Godzilla premiered in Tokyo. And North Carolina experienced one of the worst weather-related disasters in its history.

2014 marks the 60th anniversary of Hurricane Hazel, a Category 4 storm at landfall that was one of the deadliest and costliest hurricanes to date. It caused 19 deaths, 200 injuries and an estimated $1.2 billion in property damage in North Carolina alone. With wind speeds in excess of 120 miles per hour, storm surge as high as a two-story building and a 2,000 mile path of destruction, Hurricane Hazel ruined or damaged 54,000 homes and structures in the tarheel state.

Yet, Hurricane Hazel was merely the first of many notable storms to wreak havoc on North Carolina’s towns and communities. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo made landfall in Charleston, S.C. as a Category 4 storm that remained powerful even as it traveled inland. By the time it reached Charlotte, it was downgraded to a tropical storm but its destructive winds caused seven deaths and left behind more than $1 billion in damages.

The most infamous storm in recent history was Hurricane Floyd which made landfall at Cape Fear Sept. 16, 1999. The slow-moving storm dumped 7 to 20 inches of rain on much of eastern North Carolina causing more widespread flooding in areas that had received 15 inches of rain from Hurricane Dennis less than two weeks before. In fact, nearly every river basin in the eastern part of the state topped 500-year flood levels because of the back-to-back hurricanes. In all, Hurricane Floyd caused 52 deaths and $5.5 billion in damage destroying 7,000 homes and damaging 56,000 others.

Ten years ago, the back-to-back Hurricanes Frances and Ivan each dropped about 15 inches of rain in the North Carolina mountains. Record amounts of rain caused numerous landslides and toppled trees. Following Hurricane Frances, swift water rescue teams pulled more than 200 residents from flooded vehicles and homes.

“As a state, we have made major strides in the past 15 years in regard to emergency planning and preparedness,” said Mike Sprayberry, state Emergency Management director. “We have cultivated stronger partnerships, developed more comprehensive plans and created preparedness tools like the ReadyNC mobile app to help anyone in North Carolina plan, prepare and stay informed. It’s important to see where we have been to know how far North Carolina’s emergency management program has come.”

Hurricanes, tornadoes, landslides and floods will all continue to impact North Carolina. State and local emergency managers have learned from each event and use those lessons to improve planning and response capabilities. These improvements enhance the state and county’s ability to respond, keeping people safe and saving lives.

Coordinating Efforts

Each weather-related and manmade disaster that has impacted the state has garnered improvements to its response strategy. In 1954, when Hurricane Hazel made landfall, there was very little way to know that such a storm was coming, much less coordinate a statewide response effort. Following Hazel, the U.S. Weather Bureau installed a weather radar at Cape Hatteras, and federal funding was allocated for national hurricane research projects.

A statewide Emergency Management division was created in 1977 to quickly coordinate state resources to respond to and recover from any disaster in North Carolina. However, response to Hurricane Fran in 1996, revealed that there was no uniform agreement that enabled North Carolina cities and counties to help one another during and after disasters. With no policies and procedures to address logistics, deployment, compensation and liability issues, intrastate cooperation was limited and inefficient.

The Mutual Aid System was created following Hurricane Fran and remains housed in North Carolina Emergency Management. Participation in the system allows cities and counties to share resources during a disaster and access all of the state’s response capability without incurring the costs to purchase, maintain and insure an inventory of underused resources. All 100 counties, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and nearly three-fourths of the state’s 650 municipalities participate in the Mutual Aid System.

Creating a Consistent Search and Rescue Program

When Hurricane Floyd struck in 1999, dozens of search and rescue teams were scattered across the state. Most teams consisted of two to three volunteers, and skill levels, training and capabilities varied widely. A few of the more advanced teams had some swift water rescue training and were outfitted with an inflatable motorized boat. Thousands of people are alive today because of the hard work and dedication of those teams, but the haphazard response highlighted the critical need for a coordinated statewide rescue program with consistent training.

Following Floyd, North Carolina Emergency Management worked with local communities and counties to develop a new way to do business during disasters. The goal was to provide consistent training and equipment so that rescue teams could aid neighboring jurisdictions during a crisis regardless of the conditions or terrain. The result was an arsenal of consistently trained, organized search and rescue teams that could be deployed at a moment’s notice.

Local rescue teams are not now, nor have they ever been, required to meet state standards to operate in their town or county. But, to help with search and rescue missions in other parts of the state, they must complete the more stringent state-mandated training. Teams are comprised mostly of local volunteer fire fighters, law enforcement officials or emergency medical technicians from the local rescue squad.

Today, there are 30 highly-trained swift water rescue teams positioned across the state that meet national standards and can be deployed anywhere within North Carolina or across the country. Teams can be pre-deployed with the needed resources based on the team’s level of capability.

Another team in the state’s search and rescue program is the Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team, or NCHART. It became the first of its kind in the nation to implement a regimented training and response program that pairs the best civilian rescuers with state aviation assets. The program combines the expertise of local rescue technicians with the training, maintenance and capabilities of the N.C. Highway Patrol or National Guard aviation units. The 47 rescue technicians who participate in NCHART train on a quarterly basis on various skills ranging from swiftwater/flood rescue to high angle and wilderness rescue. Those that train for HART are also qualified to aid on swift water rescue teams.

HART teams were used extensively following hurricanes Frances and Ivan in 2004. Fast moving water and landslides cut off many roads and escape routes in the mountains trapping hundreds of people. The teams delivered an estimated 350 citizens to safety.

In 2001, shortly after Floyd, the state began working with several larger fire departments and rescue squads to develop a regionalized Urban Search and Rescue program. Highly trained and properly equipped, teams range from 16 to 72 people and can provide search and rescue for any type of fallen structure as well as swift water or land search capabilities. Seven teams are strategically located in municipal areas to quickly respond to any area of the state. The teams are designed to provide almost immediate relief to victims within the first few hours of an incident.

The state’s search and rescue capabilities have dramatically increased in the past 15 years. The program – comprised of Swift Water Rescue, NCHART and Urban Search and Rescue teams – means that North Carolinians can be rescued from flood waters, collapsed buildings or treacherous mountainous terrain. North Carolina has enhanced its search and rescue program from just a few teams with inconsistent skill sets prior to 1999 to dozens of teams with defined, consistent abilities.

Preparing for Anything

Much like the search and rescue teams, the state’s Hazardous Materials Regional Response Team (RRT) program is a system of seven teams strategically located to respond to hazardous material incidents with technical support, manpower, specialized equipment and/or supplies. Created in 1994, each team is composed of emergency response personnel who are certified and qualified to handle a wide range of hazmat incidents.

The RRTs are available to supplement local resources when an incident is beyond the first responders’ capabilities. Such incidents generally require more sophisticated equipment and hazardous materials technicians who have received a higher level of training. The team’s state-of-the-art equipment and supplies are transported in a specially designed tractor-trailer truck, complete with a communications center work area in the rear of the trailer unit.

The hazmat teams respond to dozens of calls annually for assistance in incidents like the truck that overturned with 22,000 pounds of dynamite on Interstate-85 or the chemical tanker carrying ethanol that overturned in a small community prompting nearby businesses to evacuate.

Protecting Domestic and Farm Animals

Hurricane Floyd taught local and state first responders that emergency preparedness plans needed to include more than just people after more than 3 million domestic and farm animals were lost during the storm. While Floyd highlighted the need for a coordinated program to handle and house companion animals, Hurricane Katrina six years later would provide the legal and financial incentive to include domestic pets in emergency plans. Two programs were subsequently developed to help care for pets and livestock during and after disasters.

The State Animal Response Team was created as a joint effort among more than 30 state and local government and animal organizations to create a safe, quick response to emergencies that impacted livestock or large domestic pets such as horses.  Conversely, Companion Animal Mobile Equipment Trailers (CAMET) were designed and positioned across the state to quickly establish pet shelters so that pet owners could bring their pets with them when they evacuate. The state now has 50 CAMETs that can be deployed when the need arises; each unit holds 50-100 small pets. In addition to being used in co-sheltering situations (where people and pets are both sheltered at the same location), the CAMETs have been used in local animal welfare situations when large numbers of animals have been removed from a home or shelter.

Being Medically Equipped to Handle Disasters

North Carolina has worked with its federal, local and state partners to develop a coordinated approach to responding to disaster situations. The state’s ability to respond to the medical needs of those affected by natural and manmade disasters has greatly increased during the past 15 years. The result, a tiered system called the State Medical Response System, is comprised of state, regional and local State Medical Assistance Teams containing trained medical personnel and mobile medical equipment that can be dispatched to aid in response and recovery efforts.

The state’s Medical Disaster Hospital is an addition to North Carolina’s growing response and recovery capabilities. The portable medical center includes a surgery unit, emergency department, trauma services, clinical area, lab services and an X-ray unit. It can be deployed anywhere in the nation to temporarily replace a fixed or field medical facility that has been damaged. For instance, earlier this year the mobile medical center was sent to Mississippi through the Mutual Aid System to provide medical support to a community whose 41-bed hospital, medical clinics and only nursing home were destroyed by tornadoes.

Improving Fundamental Resources

North Carolina has not only improved it capacity to respond with rescue teams and mobile equipment, but it has developed behind-the-scene tools that more accurately address vulnerabilities and encourage better preparedness.  Massive flooding from Hurricane Floyd topped 500-year flood levels, highlighting the state’s need for accurate, up-to-date floodplain maps and safer floodplain development standards. In September 2000, North Carolina partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to remap the state’s floodplains using advanced digital floodplain mapping technology. Since then, flood maps for all 100 counties have been revised with routine scheduled updates every five years. The state’s remapping efforts set the national standard for accurate floodplain mapping. It has helped communities and property owners to identify actual flood risks and take appropriate steps to prevent flood damage.

The aftermath of Hurricane Floyd and the September 11th terrorist attacks revealed a lapse in first responders’ ability to communicate with one another without going through a communications center. The development of the Voice Interoperability Plan for Emergency Responders, or VIPER, allowed fire, rescue and law enforcement agencies to communicate directly with one another through a single radio system. VIPER provides another means of joint coordination between state and local emergency responders.

In 2012, North Carolina Emergency Management moved into a new state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Center on the N.C. National Guard joint force headquarters campus.  The new building features some of the most modern technologies and energy-efficient “green” engineering. Now, co-located with the NCNG, State Highway Patrol Communications Center and state transportation operations center, the State Emergency Operations center is positioned to more efficiently respond to natural disasters or other emergencies.

“The state’s emergency response capabilities have evolved with every disaster this state has faced,” said NCEM Director Mike Sprayberry.  “To think how much better equipped and prepared we are now than we were 15 years ago, is encouraging. Yet there is still much to do.”

To help North Carolinians better prepare themselves for emergencies, NCEM earlier this year launched the ReadyNC mobile application. Available free for both iPhone and Droid devices, the app provides real-time information to help individuals and families prepare themselves for most any type of emergency. The app, along with its sister website (ReadyNC.org), provide up-to-date weather and traffic conditions as well as specific ways to plan and prepare, including instructions for creating an emergency supplies kit.

“We never know when the next disaster will strike,” explained Sprayberry. “But we do know that the more prepared you are before disaster strikes, the easier and faster it will be to recover afterwards.”

Written by: Laura Leonard

Source: North Carolina Division Emergency Management