April 18, 2013
Community is enthusiastic about
Emergency Response Teams
By JORDAN TOMBERLIN
it’s no stranger to disasters, Hatteras Island seems to have confronted
more than its fair share of emergency situations recently. From Irene
to Sandy to those random northeasters that sometimes wipe out
off-island travels for indeterminate periods of time, islanders have
found themselves in several challenging predicaments in the past few
County, state, and even national emergency management and
disaster relief personnel have responded after these events, but many
believe the success of response and recovery efforts are significantly
enhanced by—if not dependent on—the work of individuals within the
It was a lesson that Kenny Brite, a
volunteer with the Avon Fire Department, learned first-hand in the wake
of Hurricane Irene, and one of the reasons he is spearheading the
creation of the Hatteras Island Community Emergency Response Team
(CERT)—an island-wide initiative that provides basic emergency-response
training to community members and organizes a team that can facilitate
and supplement the efforts of certified emergency management
Basically, Hatteras Island CERT will be an
organized, community-based army of knowledgeable volunteers who can
help emergency response professionals meet the unique demands of
islanders in the wake of a disaster.
Or, as Brite puts it, “It’s neighbors taking care of neighbors.”
Brite said the idea came to him in the wake of Hurricane Irene.
Irene, we were feeding hundreds of people a day out of the Avon fire
house,” he stated. “A thousand plates were going out of [the fire
house] everyday, and we only had nine firefighters.”
end, two local women—Denise Gaskins and Antoinette Mattingly—stepped up
to ensure that the community’s most basic needs were being met, which
eased the burden of the already-overwhelmed firefighters.
was thinking, we should form an auxiliary to handle this kind of
thing,” Brite said. “A cadre of people and a plan already set in
Turns out, Brite wasn’t the only one who noticed the need for a local, community-based response team.
Connections, an organization aimed at developing and sustaining the
economic prosperity of North Carolina’s coastal communities, recently
released a community assessment report in which it recommended the
formation of a Hatteras Island emergency management council.
for the report was compiled in October of 2011, when a 10-person
resource team visited the island and spoke directly with residents,
businesses, and organizations on the island. Based on those
interactions, the resource team made a series of recommendations to
help improve community development.
Among other things, the
team determined that, since the villages of Hatteras Island are
unincorporated—and thus lack individual representation on the Dare
County Control Group as the towns north of Oregon Inlet do—the
island should have its own emergency management council to improve
communication with the county and more thoroughly assess the impacts of
natural disasters in the island’s communities.
When a task force
charged with developing a Hatteras Island emergency management council
was organized, Brite signed up to participate. That’s when he
started reading about the CERT program.
The CERT program is
managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in
cooperation with state and local emergency management agencies, and it
is designed to educate community members about disaster preparedness
for hazards that may impact their area and train them in basic disaster
The program recognizes the reality that, in
the wake of a disaster, when emergency response teams are often
overwhelmed, community members will naturally step in to help
themselves and others, and the more training those community members
have, the more assistance they can provide—and the more effective they
will be in doing so.
The CERT training is a 21-hour
course—which is offered completely free of charge—that usually takes
about six to seven weeks to complete, with members attending
The classes are a mix of direct
instruction, open discussion, and hands-on experience, and topics
include everything from making an emergency kit to conducting a
search-and-rescue mission. The course is open to anyone, even those who
don’t want to join the response team once they’ve completed the
researching it, Brite thought that an island-wide CERT program sounded
like a good fit for Hatteras, and when he pitched it to Dare
County’s Local Emergency Planning Council (LEPC) and the Saltwater
Connections task force, they both agreed with him.
With their blessing, Brite “hit the ground running.”
completed the “Train the Trainer” course, which allows him to train
course instructors. He applied for registration with FEMA and submitted
a six-month written plan. Once the registration was granted, FEMA
provided him 40 student and 10 instructor manuals.
recruited nine instructors—at least one from each of the island’s
villages, as well as a cardiologist from Richmond—and trained them to
teach the class. He also secured $7,000 in program funding, with the
rescue squad and all six of the island’s fire departments each pledging
$500 per year for the next two years.
And so far, the community response has been favorable.
really pleased with the response we’ve gotten so far,” Brite said.
“We’ve got 77 people signed up to take the course, and out of the 77
that have signed up, about 50 or 60 want to be on the response team.”
actual training course will begin on May 1, but Brite has scheduled an
organizational meeting for next Wednesday evening, April 24, at the
Avon Fire Department at 7 p.m., and anyone who is interested in the
program is encouraged to attend—whether or not they are signed up for
the course and whether or not they want to be part of the formal
And even though the organizational meeting and
the training course will take place in Avon, it’s important to note
that this is an island-wide program, and diverse representation would
not only strengthen the team’s effectiveness, but also foster community
Interested residents of each village are actively
encouraged to attend the meeting and sign up for the course. “We
really want to emphasize the island-wide mentality as much as
possible,” Brite said.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Hatteras Island CERT Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hatteras-Island-Community-Emergency-Response-Team/358658357578519
For more information on CERT, visit FEMA’s website at http://saltwaterconnections.org/.
For more information on Saltwater Connections and their work in the community, visit their website at http://saltwaterconnections.org/.