Emergency management changes in Dare County

Published 7:59 am Saturday, November 7, 2020

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Dare County is now operating under a revised Emergency Management Ordinance and Plan.

The documents were adopted July 20, 2020 as part of the Board of Commissioners consent agenda.

The revised ordinance and plan replace ones written in 2007.

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Under the ordinance, powers and duties of the county are spelled out, including setting up an emergency management agency and appointing a director; spending money to provide for health and safety; and coordinating with municipalities.

For declaring a state of emergency, Dare’s Board of Commissioners has delegated that responsibility to the board’s chairman or the chairman’s designee.

In that capacity, the chairman has the power, among others, to declare the emergency, order evacuation, impose restrictions and, new with this ordinance edition, close area “streets, roads, highways, bridges, public vehicular areas . . .”

Robert L. Woodard, chairman of the Dare Board of Commissioners, signs all public documents.

The mayors of the county’s incorporated towns consent to the chairman’s order, then such consent is enumerated in the declaration.

The Emergency Management Plan is called for in the ordinance.

The revised plan makes some changes.

In multi-jurisdiction emergencies, those making decisions are now called “senior leaders” instead of Control Group. In media releases, the senior leaders are referred to as “local officials” or “decision-makers.”

The phrase senior leaders is used in the North Carolina Emergency Management Act.

Officially, the plan calls for the Dare Board of Commissioners chairman, the mayors of Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head and Manteo, the superintendent of the Outer Banks National Parks and the Dare County sheriff.

The elected officials all have the power to declare a local state of emergency and impose restrictions and prohibitions under powers granted in the North Carolina General Statutes. Both the National Parks superintendent and sheriff derive public health and safety protection powers under different authorities.

The senior leaders always work collaboratively, reports Drew Pearson, Dare County emergency manager.

In the most recent emergencies for COVID-19 and the September shutdown of Hatteras Island from a long-duration storm, Danny Couch, Dare commissioner, and John Farrelly, Dare County Schools superintendent, participated in decision-making.

The board chairman has the authority to activate the Emergency Operations Plan which leads to the opening of the county’s Emergency Operations Center, located near the Dare County Regional Airport and North Carolina Aquarium. In that center are representatives of Dare County departments, NCDOT, power companies, a total of 27 entities, all gathering information for the senior leaders’ decision-making.

This year, Woodard set up an informal advisory group during the COVID-19 pandemic emergency for access to diverse business sectors. Serving on that informal committee are Beth Midgett with Midgett Realty on Hatteras; Pat Hudspeth, general counsel for Twiddy and Company; Tess Judge, businesswoman; Caroline Basnight, Basnight’s Lone Cedar Café; and Kate Creef, general manager, Outlets Nags Head.

The revised plan also eliminates mention of the Hatteras Island Support EOC, which has not functioned in recent times.

Recent action:

On Oct. 21, 2020, Gov. Roy Cooper issued Executive Order 170 which extended Phase 3 to 5 p.m., Nov. 13.

On Oct. 23, Woodard signed an Executive Order extending the State of Emergency in Dare County to Nov. 13.

The Executive Order says “. . . and all individuals and businesses in Dare County shall adhere to the provisions of all statewide Executive Orders issued by the Governor of North Carolina until modified, extended or rescinded.”

All mayors consented to the Woodard’s emergency order, except Kitty Hawk Mayor Gary L. Perry. On Oct. 2, Perry issued an emergency order for Kitty Hawk, which closely tracked the one issued by Woodard on the same date.