Weather

Officials: Kits, evacuation plan key to hurricane preparedness

Posted May 21, 2008 5:16 p.m. EDT
Updated May 21, 2008 7:53 p.m. EDT

— Having a plan for evacuation and a pre-packed hurricane kit are key preparations for successfully coming through a hurricane, state official stressed Wednesday.

To drive home the need to think ahead, Gov. Mike Easley declared May 25-31 “Hurricane Preparedness Week.”

Hurricane season starts on June 1, and it's something to take seriously. North Carolina ranks behind only Florida in its vulnerability to hurricanes.

Officials said residents in the state should have a hurricane kit, containing food and clothing for three to seven days. It should include important papers, in a plastic bag to protect against rain and flooding.

The kits should also include a supply of any prescription medications needed, personal hygiene items, cash or a checkbook and a first aid kit.

Officials said people should have an evacuation plan, too. If pets are involved, people should make a list of pet-friendly shelters or hotels, officials said.

For the past two days, the State Emergency Response Team has been training on how to handle emergencies like floods and hurricanes. Representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency are in town this week helping with the drill.

The Emergency Management Division has prepared an evacuation and sheltering plan for the entire coastal region.

Bryan Beatty, secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety, said the plan was born from Hurricane Katrina, which caused destruction in Louisiana and Mississippi in August 2005.

"We looked at our plans and knew that they were probably not adequate for a large evacuation and shelter," Beatty said.

The Coastal Region Evacuation and Sheltering Standard Operation Guide identifies counties that are at risk of storm-surge flooding and ones that will host evacuees. The guide, which is updated every year, includes the evacuation and sheltering of elderly and medically fragile people in 20 coastal counties.

The biggest change in the plan this year is the coordination between counties to make sure efforts are not duplicated, Beatty said. The plan calls for school bus and Department of Correction vehicles to help evacuate the coast.

Beatty said the state hasn’t had a major evacuation in 50 years since Hurricane Hazel threatened. With more development on the coast and a lot more people to evacuate, Beatty urged people to be prepared.

Since the 2002 ice storm, officials said they have also started providing emergency information in Spanish.