In North Carolina, county commissioners are the ones who declare states of emergency for counties, however, often those elected officials don’t know much about emergencies and how to handle them.
A new program from the NC Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) – called “100 Counties Prepared Emergency Preparedness Training for County Commissioners” – is aiming to change that, and, last week, at the NCACC Annual Conference, many county commissioners and other county officials from across the state completed the training.
The course took place on Thursday, August 11 at the 115th Annual Conference in Cabarrus County.
The course is an initiative of Brunswick County Commissioner and NCACC Past President Frank Williams, who launched the “100 Counties Prepared” presidential initiative last year.
Williams said this week that county governments perform a number of important duties, however, he added, that performance is even more important during an emergency. He said the new course strengthens “their knowledge and skills of how to lead more effectively when it matters the most.”
The new initiative came about after Williams’ served as chairman of the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners during Hurricanes Florence, Dorian and Isaias. He said he noticed a lack of emergency preparedness training for some elected officials and the 100 Counties Prepared training was created to help remedy that “by equipping elected officials with the tools, resources and information needed to lead effectively during emergencies such as natural disasters, public health crises, and other critical incident situations.”
Williams said county staff was well trained for emergency conditions, but, as a rule, commissioners weren’t.
Guilford County is fortunate in that Guilford County Commissioner Alan Perdue was the longtime head of the Guilford County Emergency Services Department before becoming a county commissioner. Anytime the commissioners are dealing with an emergency, Perdue has a great deal to say and the other commissioners usually listen closely to his advice. Perdue currently travels around the country consulting and training others on safety practices and emergency issues.
The one-day NCACC course, taught by experts in the field, offered the following:
- An overview of the “complex myriad of legal terminology, roles, and responsibilities related to emergency preparedness and management.”
- A discussion of the role of commissioners in the emergency management process.
- A session on communication during a crisis.
- A panel discussion featuring former NC Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry and former FEMA Director Brock Long.
With the current state of world affairs, and having been a part of many of these training exercises, one glowing issue stands out that needs to be addressed.
All of our emergency response agencies rely heavily on technology. There is no significant live training for a back to the stone age EMP type event that would crush nearly ALL that within seconds. What would they do if we had no power, no cell phones, no computers, few operable vehicles, etc? If the day ever comes, that is not the time to start developing a plan of action.