Local News

Stricter Codes Mean Less Damage in Storms, Planner Says

Posted April 13, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Strict codes in Wrightsville Beach helped many buildings make it through Hurricane Fran virtually undamaged, the town's planner said at the National Hurricane Conference.

Less than 20 out of 1,000 structures sustained wind damage due, in part, to the town's requirement that plywood, instead of particle board, be used during construction, said Ed Taylor, town planner.

Taylor was one of 11 North Carolinians who spoke at the conference on topics ranging from the role of the military during hurricane recovery to the availability of shelters during a mass evacuation. Some of the most popular workshops focused on public awareness of hurricane impacts, the political realities of evacuating coastal communities and the El Nino phenomenon.

Dan Summers, Director, New Hanover County Emergency Management, discussed an innovative $1 million hurricane planning effort called Project Impact that is now underway in New Hanover County. Project Impact is a national effort to shift the focus of emergency management from responding to disasters to taking actions in advance of disasters that reduce potential damage.

For example, all the public schools in the Wilmington-New Hanover County area will be subject to an engineering study to determine their vulnerability to storms. Additional funds will be used to implement the highest priorities identified in the study.

Partners in Wilmington's Project Impact include FEMA, the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management, the New Hanover County Emergency Management, the city of Wilmington, and private-sector entities, such as General Electric, Lowe's Hardware Store, Barnes and Noble and WGNI-FM Radio, among others.

Another Tar Heel, Tom Hegele, chief of the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management's Education and Emergency Information Group, discussed how state emergency management agencies, local communities and the media must ensure that all information relayed to the public is both correct and consistent.

Hegele described how improper information could lead to a false sense of security, putting many residents and tourists at risk. Hegele also said that all coastal residents should make sure that they are properly insured, have a survival kit that will last for three days and be familiar with all evacuation routes.

Doug Hoell, Eastern Branch Manager of the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management in Washington, N.C., described how the state's hurricane evacuation plan has evolved over the past few years.

According to Hoell, the first hurricane evacuation study was completed in 1987. At this time, the majority of coastal evacuation routes were limited to two-lane roads and drawbridges. Today, most evacuation routes consist of four-lane highways and fixed-span bridges, making an evacuation much quicker and easier for both residents and tourists.