Hatteras Island residents took the Dare County Commissioners to the woodshed and beat them up a bit on their response to Hurricane Irene.
The residents were somewhat more kind to Dare County Emergency Management.
In addition, residents did not have much good to say about the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, though if you read the individual comments, it’s clear that the low marks had less to do with the storm and more to do with the fact that islanders don’t have any use for these two federal agencies.
Hatteras islanders heaped praise on the North Carolina Department of Transportation, and were positive about the response of the NCDOT Ferry Division.
And it seems that residents could not find enough good things to say about two Hatteras utilities – the Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative and the Dare County Water Department.
The Dare County Sheriff’s Office and the N.C. Highway Patrol got good reviews, as did the U.S. Coast Guard.
Other groups, such as phone and cable companies, got mixed reviews from Hatteras islanders.
Ocracokers were not happy with the Dare commissioners’ decision to allow lower Hatteras visitors re-entry via the ferries from the mainland and through Ocracoke to Hatteras. However, they were not given the opportunity in the survey to rate the Dare County board.
In the second half of The Island Free Press Reader Survey: Hurricane Irene Response, we asked you to rate 14 government agencies, utilities, and other groups and companies on how they performed in the storm’s aftermath.
Respondents rated the 14 entities in six areas – leadership, professionalism, planning, whether they had your best interests in mind, if their representatives were “on the ground,” and whether they provided timely and accurate information. And then you were asked to rate their overall performance.
In this report, we’ll summarize only the overall ratings for each agency – except for the Dare County Board of Commissioners, which had the leadership role in the county’s recovery operation. For the, we’ll look at all six detailed ratings.
The links at the end of this report will take you to the complete evaluation responses from four groups -- all Hatteras Island residents, those who evacuated, those who did not evacuate, and Ocracoke residents.
In addition, there are three links that take you to all of the comments on all 14 agencies and organizations from Hatteras residents who evacuated, those who did not leave, and Ocracoke residents.
DARE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
Residents who evacuated and those who stayed gave the commissioners an overall negative rating of about 40 percent. Thirty-nine percent of all residents rated the overall performance as unsatisfactory or poor. Those who evacuated gave them a 41 percent rating of unsatisfactory or poor, and those who did not evacuate came in at 39 percent.
The fair ratings for overall performance were 23 percent for all residents, 27 percent of those who evacuated, and 21 percent of those who stayed.
When you combine the fair, unsatisfactory, and poor ratings for the commissioners, you find that 68 percent of those who evacuated and those who stayed were less than pleased with the performance of their county board.
Thirty-one percent of all residents gave the board a good or excellent overall rating. Thirty-three percent of residents who stayed gave a good or excellent rating, but only 28 percent of those who evacuated did.
When you look at the six categories on which the board was rated, you can see further that residents who evacuated and were not allowed to return as quickly as they wanted to were more unhappy than those who stayed.
Other ratings for the Board of Commissioners:
Leadership. Both groups gave them about the same poor and unacceptable rating – 34 percent of those who evacuated and 32 percent of those who did not. However, 39 percent of those who stayed gave their commissioners a good or excellent rating, compared to only 33 percent of those who evacuated.
Professionalism. The ratings were about the same here for both groups – slightly more negative among those who evacuated. Those who evacuated gave a 31 percent poor or unacceptable, compared to 29 percent who stayed. Meanwhile 37 percent of those who evacuated gave a rating of good or excellent, compared to 40 percent who left.
Planning. The commissioners took a hit here, especially among those who evacuated. Of that group, 51 percent rated the board as poor or unacceptable when it came to having a well devised plan to work from, and 40 percent of those who stayed gave them negative ratings. Only 22 percent of those who evacuated and 25 percent of those who stayed gave them a good or excellent rating.
Acting in the best interest of residents. Fifty-one percent of those who evacuated and 42 percent of those who stayed rated the commissioners poor or unacceptable. Only 28 percent of those who evacuated and 31 percent of those who stayed ranked them as good or excellent.
Having their personnel “on the ground.” Here, 34 percent of those who stayed gave the board a poor or unacceptable rating, compared to only 19 percent who evacuated. On the flip side, 35 percent of those who stayed gave the commissioners a good or excellent rating, compared to only 24 percent who evacuated.
Timely and accurate information. The commissioners got a high negative here also – 42 percent of both those who evacuated and those who did not gave them a poor or unacceptable rating. Those who evacuated gave them a 28 percent good or excellent rating, as did 32 percent of those who stayed.
DARE COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
Looking at these results, it seems the residents took out their frustration on the bosses.
They had a somewhat better view of how this agency performed for the county.
About the same number of evacuated residents – 23 percent and those who stayed – 26 percent -- gave it a unacceptable or poor rating. Good or excellent ratings came from 38 percent of those who left and 40 percent of those who stayed.
POWER COMPANY AND WATER DEPARTMENT
Lots of positive rankings here in every category.
Overall, 93 percent of all residents thought Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative did a good or excellent job, while only 3 percent ranked the power company as poor or unacceptable. And, overall, no one had problems with the Dare County Water Department. No residents gave them a poor or unacceptable rating.
PHONES AND CABLE
There were mixed results here, with many folks checking the “don’t know” box, meaning they probably didn’t have any contact with the companies.
Century Link did okay, with more residents having a good or excellent view of the company’s response. The cell phone companies got more negative ratings overall among those who left and those who stayed. From the comments, it is clear that those who did not evacuate were frustrated that cell service went out and stayed out for several days.
There were many “don’t know” responses about Charter Cable, but there were also many fewer residents who ranked the company as good or excellent.
There were many “don’t know” responses here also – 53 percent of all residents. However, those who did respond were more negative than positive. Seventy-five respondents said the Tourist Bureau did an unacceptable or poor job of responding, and only five said it had a good or excellent response.
DARE COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE AND N.C. HIGHWAY PATROL
Some residents took exception to what they saw as “heavy-handed” responses from these agencies in a time where little was normal, and all were stressed. However, overall both the Sheriff’s Office and the Highway Patrol got more good and excellent ratings than poor or unacceptable.
N. C. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION AND FERRY DIVISION
DOT got rave reviews with 74 percent of those who evacuated and 76 percent of those who stayed giving the agency a good or excellent rating. Only 4 to 5 percent found its performance poor or unacceptable.
Though you will see in the comments, that many residents had problems with the emergency ferry system, they gave the Ferry Division a pretty good thumbs up – 64 percent of those who evacuated and 68 percent of those who stayed said the division did a good or excellent job.
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE AND U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
Although 41 percent of residents said they didn’t know enough to comment on the Park Service’s hurricane response and 54 answered “don’t know” on the Fish and Wildlife Service, those who did respond were completely negative.
In the rankings of all residents, only 45 had anything nice to say about the Park Service, and only 28 ranked the Fish and Wildlife Service as good or excellent. Another 130 residents ranked the Park Service as poor or unacceptable, while 115 put Fish and Wildlife in that category.
U.S. COAST GUARD
Residents were happy with the response of the U.S. Coast Guard. A total of 215 residents gave the agency a good or excellent ranking, and only 15 gave it negative marks.
By and large, Ocracokers seemed pretty satisfied with the response of the agencies on their island. The Hyde County Board of Commissioners got so-so ranking. Fifteen islanders thought the commissioners’ performance was poor, unacceptable or only fair. Another 16 residents found it good or excellent.
We hope our readers and the folks at the agencies and organizations that are rated will look at the comments.
The comments can be found in three documents to which there are links just below. We separated the comments of Hatteras islanders who evacuated and those who stayed. And we included all Ocracoke resident responses on one document.
I am struck by how much time these residents put into responding to the survey, and especially making specific comments on each agency or organization.
There are 41 pages of comments on all agencies and groups by Hatteras residents who stayed on the island, and 21 pages from those who evacuated. Ocracokers contributed six pages of comments.
We have included them all, unedited – with the exception of a few four-letter words.
Remember when you are reading them that islanders are writing about their own experiences, their attitudes, and various rumors they heard in the storm’s aftermath.
Some may or may not be true, but we included them all – because the rumor mill was a problem, especially on Hatteras Island.—which only proves the point that we must continue to work on communications before, during, and especially after storms.
These are mostly thoughtful comments that we hope our leaders and public officials will find useful in the next storm – because there will be one.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Complete Hurricane Irene survey evaluations by all Hatteras residents
Complete Hurricane Irene survey evaluations by Hatteras residents who evacuated
Complete Hurricane Irene survey evaluations by Hatteras residents who stayed
Complete Hurricane Irene survey evaluations by Ocracoke residents
Comments on official response from Hatteras residents who evacuated
Comments on official response from Hatteras residents who stayed
Comments on official response from Ocracoke residents