Emergency Management (EM) evolved from the old Civil Defense program of the 1950s. Emergency Management is a four-phase approach of preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation to a wide range of emergency situations. These situations include fire, flood, hazardous materials, severe storms, dam failure, terrorism, explosions, plane crash, mass casualty events, etc. During the last ten years Stanly County has been included on three presidential disaster declarations for hurricane damage and one small business disaster declaration for flooding. These declarations open up financial avenues from the federal government to assist with recovery to public agencies, private organizations, and individual citizens.While the program is a local government function, it is part of a team that includes the Emergency Management Division located in the North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The State and Federal agencies do set certain expectations from the local agency in return for some funding and equipment. The current funding to this program is just over $11,000 per year and we have received around $3,000 worth of equipment during each of the past two years. The cash funding has decreased since 1999, especially for agencies that have more duties than just Emergency Management. Funding for specific pieces of equipment is expected to increase as the State Division attempts to get all Counties standardized in certain capabilities.
A County Emergency Operations Plan is printed and has been approved by agencies that have duties during a major event. This plan details the responsibilities of the various agencies. It also includes references to various ordinances and statutes including the County Emergency Management Ordinance. This ordinance provides the governing board chairman the authority to declare a State of Emergency. A State of Emergency Proclamation gives the chairman the authority to restrict movement of people, enact curfews, mandate evacuations, and other type “marshal law” activities in order to maintain order and provide for the safety of the citizens. It is also the first step in making application for declaration of disaster by the Governor and President.
In the event of a major incident or disaster, an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has been established in the basement of the Courthouse. In fact, the entire basement is considered the EOC. However, the Emergency Services Office, Operations/Conference Room, and 911 Center are the major areas used. A grant was received in 1983 to provide emergency power, a well for an emergency water supply, communications equipment, and other miscellaneous equipment to provide up to two weeks survivability. The area must be maintained for an EOC and any changes in use or layout are to be approved by the State. Failure to comply may result in the grant having to be paid back. The formula used for this place the current payback at approximately $100,000. The EOC provides safe haven for government officials to provide direction and control of emergency response and recovery during a disaster. It is the responsibility of EM to maintain the EOC for quick activation.
Another major responsibility of Emergency Management staff is coordination of activities mandated by several statutes and federal acts concerning hazardous materials. The major one is the Superfund and Reauthorization Act (SARA), which mandates planning activities, industry reporting of chemical information, and community right to know. The State currently maintains six regional hazardous materials response teams to respond to haz-mat incidents to assist in evaluation and containment. Our regional team is located in Fayetteville. Charlotte Fire Department also has a team that is not part of the State regional teams. They will respond if available upon request, however the County may be responsible for the cost if the responsible party cannot be determined. A fully operational team can easily cost in the neighborhood of $750,000 to set up. The on going cost of required training, restocking, and physicals can make such a team out of reach for most communities. However, a very real haz-mat problem exists anywhere roads, railroad tracks, and industries are located.
Several agencies in the County are currently attempting to establish a County Hazardous Materials Team. Local government and private sector financing is being sought.