Better and more internal and external communication is a recurring recommendation in the recent after-action report on Hurricane Florence at Oak Island.
The September 2018 storm brought winds of 90 to 105 mph, a nine-foot storm surge and 26 inches of rain after an already unusually wet spring and summer. In addition to significant beach erosion, damages in the town were estimated at $11-million.
Structural debris amounting to 385 tons and more than 131,000 cubic yards of vegetative debris were removed by Crowder Gulf under an emergency contract. Town staff
See Oak Island, page 16A
hauled away another 8.5 tons of building waste and 249 cubic yards of yard debris.
The report, by Fire Chief Chris Anselmo, noted the contract with Crowder Gulf proved valuable. It also recommended better communication with residents when the transition was made from town staff to hauling by the contractor, which had different rules.
The report stressed that the public should rely on official communications from the town and Brunswick County’s Code Red alerts. There was significant misinformation on Facebook and other social media.
Among other recommendations:
• Get the word out earlier on evacuation, especially to those in rental houses or motel rooms, many of whom are unfamiliar with the area.
• Review and make a clear list of key town staff who need to stay or return as quickly as possible.
• Work with the county on backup fuel supplies.
• Establish earlier, and better, communications with the county on the location of special needs residents.
• Arrange for an equipment and/or personnel staging area at the Midway Commons shopping area on the mainland.
• Make sure staff and elected officials have up-to-date training on emergency procedures.
• Consider purchasing two-way radios for Public Services instead of relying on cell phones.
• Use computer tablets to issue some rebuilding permits in the field.
• Add more telephone lines and offer pre-recorded updates for the public.
Moving forward, the report also suggested acquiring a backup/virtual computer server to avoid interruption of communication, along with daily staff briefings in person or by conference calls.