With North Carolina back in the sights of a hurricane, there is no better time to remember the idiom, “Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”

After Matthew in 2016, Jimmy Tanner, Gaston County Tax Director,  realized that the individuals in the tax office who are usually tasked with the damage assessment process have likely suffered property loss themselves and also may have family and friends in need. With that in mind, Jimmy used PTAX to offer staff from his office to help with the damage assessment process in impacted counties. Other counties followed by offering similar assistance.

With the bigger picture, the School of Government has an awesome leader in this area, Norma Houston. https://www.sog.unc.edu/resources/microsites/nc-emergency-management

After Matthew, Norma shared with me that typically any requested assistance from a local government is coordinated through the State Emergency Operations Center, through the webEOC system. County emergency managers submit requests up to the state level, and the state coordinates deploying resources and assets back down to the local level.  In working through this system, sharing of local resources are automatically covered under the statewide mutual aid agreement which covers issues like liability, workers compensation, and FEMA reimbursement for expenses.  If the assistance is provided directly from one county to another, the two counties can still operate under the statewide mutual aid agreement – the sending and receiving counties should coordinate this through their county emergency management coordinators.

If your office can spare help with damage assessment or otherwise, make sure your county emergency manager is aware that you have staff that can assist impacted counties so it can be coordinated through the webEOC system. And if you’re an impacted county, consider asking for this type of assistance so your staff can be at home with their family and friends as much as possible.

Let’s hope Florence will not be as bad as the forecasts indicate, but regardless, there will be more disasters to come, and we can prepare ahead. Today, we can pray for everyone’s safety, we can learn more about how we can help each other in times of disaster, and become familiar with best practices around the country. I’m sharing several links below to articles I found from IAAO, and I’m hoping among us all we can discover better ways that we can help each other through these times. Jimmy just sent me an email and offered his assistance again. He’s also got two drones that can be used for damage assessment. Please comment below if you can add to this subject. I’m praying for the best.