My Ideas: Disaster Readiness

North Carolina has withstood 35 major disasters since FEMA launched its current classification system in 1953. These hurricanes, tornadoes and ice storms have destroyed crops, leveled homes, disrupted the economy and – in some cases – taken lives. By adequately preparing for these events, which usually leave behind a million-dollar clean-up bill, we can better protect our citizens and expedite the recovery process.

I learned the devastation of a natural disaster firsthand, when Hurricanes Frances and Ivan pelted Canton with wind and water in the fall of 2004. Resultant flooding turned our town hall into a swimming pool, with muddy waters rising up six feet within the building: Town property alone sustained $9.2 million in damage. More than 20 homes were ruined beyond repair.

As mayor and a National Guard officer with 28 years experience, I knew what had to be done to rebuild. As lieutenant governor, I will make sure all local leaders are similarly well situated by advancing the following principles:

• Compacts between municipalities and emergency management services are crucial for managing a successful recovery effort. The state must make it a priority to strengthen and support these mutual aid agreements.
• If a town has not created or updated its disaster plan, the state should help facilitate that process so security and communication will be maintained in the days after a disaster.
• It is the state’s responsibility to educate local leaders about the resources that are available to them, and to ensure those resources are sufficient. The legislature should create a fund to help municipalities rebuild their communities according to their local values.
• The Hurricane Recovery Act of 2005 was a model of legislation that worked for our state’s citizens and businesses. Future disasters should always be met with such speedy and substantial legislation.

Disaster readiness requires thinking about the smallest details (For more on this, please see my “Top Twelve Lessons Learned for Emergency Preparation and Response from Hurricanes Frances and Ivan”, posted by the North Carolina League of Municipalities at www.xrl.us/tqoy.) It’s time for the Council of State to include someone who has wrestled with these details.

I understand the heartbreak coastal North Carolinians endure every time a hurricane strikes their hometown and the fear that seizes our neighbors in southern counties when tornadoes rip through their back yards. We can’t prevent these disasters, or even accurately predict when they’ll hit. But we can mitigate their effects by investing our state’s disaster-preparedness dollars and institutional support in responsive, community-led programs that keep our citizens safe.

Comments

Questions and comments for Pat

I like your engagement model and I hope it works.

It's been my experience that most people running for office talk in broad generalities and stop well short of getting to details that matter most. On a scale of 1 to 10 where "10" is fully detailed, you're operating at four or five, which is way better than the norm. But I'd like to see you up around 7 or 8 which will require talking about costs. For everything we do, there is a cost. And in an environment where the right wing tries to force everything into a zero-sum game, you can't expect additional money to fund thoughtful programs around preparedness.

Are the ideas here about reallocating current budget or adding new costs? (Don't take this to be a challenge to adding costs. I think we don't invest nearly enough in planning and preparing.)

I don't expect detailed budget analyses, but I don't think you can ignore the issue entirely.

A

PS It seems to me you're thinking about LG as a "Chief Operating Officer" role. I like that idea.

PPS For what it's worth, you probably don't need to post everything as both a new entry and as a comment on your original post. All of your entries are saved in chronological order on your blog. Just click on your name at the top of your entry, and then on your "blog." You'll see everything you've posted as an entry. That's where most of us will end up going to see what you've said in the past.

Funding disaster readiness

Dear Anglico,

Thank you for your technical advice and general thoughts.

As for the question of funding, I believe there is an economical and efficient solution that makes use of programs already in place. Rather than calling for new costly programs, the state should shift its emphasis to building awareness and improving coordination of existing programs involving existing institutions and agencies. My experience has shown that local leaders charged with responding to disasters often do not know whom to contact for assistance, or which programs are available to them. Like so many of the state’s leaders, these officeholders are generally unfamiliar with the state’s emergency management procedures and policies.

Changing our focus is an effective and inexpensive solution to the problems posed by unexpected disasters. One important financial measure I would endorse is the establishment of a new fund for rebuilding communities – I envision something like our current “rainy day fund”. This would alleviate the need for special legislation each time a particular disaster happens and quicken the response time to a community’s rebuilding needs after the initial response, stabilization and cleanup.

When disasters strike and the costs of rebuilding a community exceed what savings, insurance, and charitable efforts cover, I believe it is the duty of our state and federal governments to assist financially. Not with a blank check, but with financial prudence and accountability.

Thank you again for taking the time to respond. I look forward to further dialogue.

Thanks.

This helps me understand where you're coming from.

PS You're getting the hang of this! Before you know it, you'll be the guy they describe as having really learned his way around the Internets!

Hey A, Smather's is just getting started...

Anglico, Pat is just starting to develop his online profile. I thought great start for a new netrooter.

Of course, I like more detail in our discussions. I'm sure over the next months Pat will have time to develop, expand, refine and reflect on his post, other comments, etc. and create a corpus of thought on his LG goals his run can be judged against.

His efforts should also be contrasted against his fellow candidates (when we know who they are...)

Keep rolling Pat.

CitizenWill
there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right. MLK,Jr. to SCLC Leadership Class

CitizenWill
there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right. MLK,Jr. to SCLC Leadership Class

Agreed

I wasn't trying to be a wet blanket. I love what he's doing and I want to encourage this kind of engagement all the way. He has asked for specific questions, so I figured I'd take him up on it.

You're right though, the proof will be in the comparisons. LG is already getting crowded and this is a great way for Pat to get his feet moving in the netroots.

A. I know you're not being a wet blanket....

A. I know you're not being a wet blanket.

I raised this question on another thread: What can the netroots do to help candidates fill in a detailed agenda?

For Kissel, who's running against a well-fortified incumbent, what can the netroots do to help him recognize key votes and respond coherently - in detail - reflective of his agenda - to Hayes' votes?

CitizenWill
there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right. MLK,Jr. to SCLC Leadership Class

CitizenWill
there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right. MLK,Jr. to SCLC Leadership Class

"command center"

One thing that has gotten a lot of blame for Katrina was the lack of a clear structure for dealing with problems. Specifically, who is in charge when and where does everyone operate from.

I would like to see some sort of regional/local systems with no one ever being able to say that North Carolina had trouble figuring out who was in charge.

Do we already have stuff like that?

HelpLarry.com

"Keep the Faith"

Sorting out responsibility

Good question. We do currently have an Emergency Operations Center which, in times of disasters, does coordinate the efforts of the National Guard, state law enforcement agencies, hazardous wastes teams, medical personnel, etc. However most of these agencies’ efforts occur after the first 48 hours, which is why I am so adamant about having well-trained local personnel and mutual support agreements between local fire, police and emergency personnel who serve as a community’s first responders. By proactively addressing the communication breakdowns and emergency situations that are bound to occur in the immediate wake of a disaster, we can help avert a repeat of the tragedy which struck the Gulf South.

County governments

I just started working for Durham County, and I've had to do 2 FEMA courses (ICS100 & 700). My supervisor had an emergency management exercise last week where they roleplayed a train derailment scenario, and he's in another training exercise yesterday & today. Now, this isn't hurricane or ice storm levels, but the Durham government seems to have some sort of structures in place.

An interesting feature of NC pharmacy law is that displaced residents may get their prescriptions filled for up to 30 days without a prescription, provided they can say exactly what they take (drug & dose). This even goes for controlled substances (except schedule 2.) My law prof called it the "Hurricane Fran law," because it was created in response to that. Oregon, where I worked last year, does not have a similar provision.

That's a good idea.

The medical card that Clinton suggested would have made that immaterial, but there are privacy issues. This seems like an extension of the asthma medication law, where anyone can get an inhaler without a prescription if they seem in need of one. do you know what I'm talking about?

I know that every good and excellent thing in the world stands moment by moment on the razor-edge of danger and must be fought for. ~ Thornton Wilder

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

I haven't heard of that one.

Albuterol inhalers are fairly low-risk for most people, though.

I think a medical card would be excellent, especially in hospital & emergency situations. There are all sorts of new JCAHO regulations on medication reconciliation, which are putting strain on overworked hospital staff. (Essentially, they have to get a full med list on admission and make another at discharge, with any changes.) Having a current medication list (as well as any diagnoses the person carries) either in a database or on a chip on the card would surely reduce errors ("Well, we didn't know he had a history of bleeding ulcer because it's not in our records and he didn't tell us!"). The privacy issues could be worked out.

"The privacy issues could be worked out."

Don't let Will R. hear you say that!!!
; )

I know that every good and excellent thing in the world stands moment by moment on the razor-edge of danger and must be fought for. ~ Thornton Wilder

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

heh.

The security issue or the evil misuse issue?

Where is WillR. I miss him

He hasn't been about much lately...either that or I just keep missing him.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



***************************
Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Insurance, Destruction, and Rebuilding.

Hi,
This questions isn't about any experience in particular, but i would like your opinion on rebuilding. In no particular order:

* should people be allowed to continue developing flood plain property?
* who should foot the bill when those properties are destroyed?
* what is the state's role now and what would you see it being in the future?
I know that every good and excellent thing in the world stands moment by moment on the razor-edge of danger and must be fought for. ~ Thornton Wilder

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

Rebuilding questions

Hi Robert,

Thank you for your questions. In regard to rebuilding following a flood, my opinion is that people should be discouraged from doing so in flood-prone areas. Current regulations make distinctions between floodways and floodplains, with the first being more restrictive. I think we should seriously look at increasing restrictions in the flood plain.

Currently, our state does offer financial assistance in the aftermath of a disaster, but it is generally done on a case-by-case basis and requires special legislation like the Hurricane Relief Act of 2005. This causes delay and some angst as to what will be the “political” solution, which is why I propose the buildup of a disaster relief fund using the Hurricane Relief Act of 2005 as a model. Frankly, it would not have been possible for my town to rebuild and prepare for future floods had state funds not been made available. As a side note, I think our local Democratic leaders’ impressive response to the WNC floods is one reason we had such a successful Election Day in our region.

Just curious.

How many times? How many times do you rebuild people's houses or businesses for them?

I've lived right on the beach a few times, I'm not against living on the beach.

I know that every good and excellent thing in the world stands moment by moment on the razor-edge of danger and must be fought for. ~ Thornton Wilder

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

Candidate Smathers

Thanks for bringing this to BlueNC.

You're right to get out of the chute early, and it's heartening to see that disaster readiness is high on your priority list despite the dreadful incompetence at the national level under the current administration.

I'll keep reading what you're offering. Where is your website? It would be wise for you to repost this sort of thing at your official campaign site.

Scrutiny Hooligans - http://www.scrutinyhooligans.us

Campaign website

A preliminary website is online at www.patsmathers2008.com. We're planning a major relaunch after the first of the year, and encourage you to check back then to learn more about my ideas and background, scheduled appearances and ways to become involved in my campaign.

Responses

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read and respond to my first issues blog. I hope my answers adequately respond to your initial questions considering how detailed and involved the topic is. While I have experience in this area, I do not have all the answers and need your suggestions. No doubt, natural and manmade disasters will continue to plague us, and we need to be prepared.

Great thread

Great comments. I like the idea of the medical/prescription card that Robert mentioned. I have a friend who is a nurse in emergency medicine and it sounds like something that would be helpful to them.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



***************************
Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

http://www.carolinasmed-1.org

http://www.carolinasmed-1.org/

Pat,
I don't know if you are already aware of some of the assets we have available here in NC. This mobile hospital, which is based at CMC in Charlotte, was deployed to Waveland, MS after Katrina. The mobile hospital includes an operating room, intensive care ward, and a tent system for making a functioning Emergency Department. The entire setup is self contained.

The biggest issues related to disaster response usually involve the overlapping jurisdictions and responsibilities of the various local, state, and federal agencies. How would you coordinate with the federal and local agencies to develop a coherent plan, keeping in mind that they all have their own "fiefdoms"?

One thing that would help in time of disaster would be to enact a regulation that allows EMT's and Paramedics to practice anywhere in the state. Right now, we can only operate in our individual counties and only at the pleasure of the local Medical Director. We do not have a statewide licensure system such as the Registered Nurses have in place.

I am very happy to see that you have jumped into the crowded field of LG candidates, and wish you well.