Lee officials get education in emergency management

Feb. 27, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

Details about the county's current emergency response plan were outlined for local leaders Tuesday, who participated in a public officials conference with Lee County Emergency Management.

The conference is held every two years — usually after an election cycle — to provide newly-elected officials a chance to review the emergency management program and ask questions about the disaster response plan, said Lee County Emergency Services Director Shane Seagroves. The meeting was held at the Emergency Operations Center, located at 204 W. Courtland Drive, Tuesday morning.

"I hope it raises their awareness about utilizing outside resources to meet our local needs [in the wake of a disaster]," he said.

With the tornado that devastated Lee County in 2011 still fresh on many of the officials' minds, the training was vital, said Lee County Commissioner Chairman Charlie Parks.

"It was good for me because it was my first one," said Parks, who was selected as the chairman of the Lee County Board of Commissioners in December. "It helped me get a thumbnail sketch of what goes into disaster recovery and all of the people who are involved. We have a good emergency plan and staff who helped us get through the tornado."

Part of the reason to hold these types of meetings, Seagroves said, is to give officials a working understanding of the department and disaster response plan before a catastrophe strikes.

"It's better to lay that information out before we have a real-world disaster," he said. "I hope what they take away is that emergency management, either locally or state, is basically resource management to, when the need arises, be able to find the resources to meet those needs."

The tornado — an E-F3 storm that took two lives and tore apart multiple homes and businesses — was a true test for emergency service personnel and local leaders, said Sanford Mayor Cornelia Olive.    

"We were trained by fire when we were hit with the tornado," she said. "And we were able to rise to the occasion because of all the training in the past. It was needed and crucial."

North Carolina Emergency Management Coordinator Stephen Powers also gave a presentation of the state emergency management department, highlighting the changes in recent years.

The local emergency management department already has several of the necessary plans in place, Powers said, but it's essential for public officials to be aware of what going on within their departments.