The annual Hatteras Island Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) meeting was held on Thursday night, January 9, at the Avon Volunteer Fire Department. During the meeting, CERT formally recognized several members of their organization, as well as members from the community, for their efforts and donations before, during, and after Hurricane Dorian. Larry Ogden, CERT leader, commented openly and sincerely, “Without them, I don’t think we would have been as successful.”
Hatteras Island CERT is a group of volunteers, which alongside several other organizations such as Dare County Social Services (DCSS), Dare County Emergency Management (DCEM), and all of the island’s volunteer fire departments (VFD), coordinated the recovery efforts before the storm even hit.
CERT is a NOAA ambassador, and therefore, receives updates and predictions on storms as soon as they become available. The results of Dorian were exactly as predicted, and Dorian flooded Hatteras Island from Avon to Hatteras Village in early September of 2019. Before the storm had even subsided, DCSS had contacted Larry Ogden, President of the Hatteras Island CERT team, as to where Salvation Army could set up a food truck, while the Dare County Fire Marshall contacted the CERT leader to assess the damage and find out what supplies would be needed in the recovery efforts. Som To, the Kill Devil Hills Lowes store manager, had also called before the roads were even cleared for travel to offer “whatever supplies might be needed.”
Immediately, when the roads were cleared for travel and deemed safe, CERT began setting up at the Frisco VFD and the Avon VFD with the kits they had prepared to collect vital information to get people the help they need. Although partnered with such groups as the organization Cape Hatteras United Methodist Men, DCEM, DCSS, and all of the VFDs, CERT carried out many of the logistics and lead the way, working closely with these other organizations throughout the storm’s aftermath.
38 of the 50 members of CERT worked tirelessly throughout the entire storm recovery process, some while dealing with their own homes being devastated. Ed Carey, a new member of CERT, was praised at the meeting for
working every day of the storm. Local and visiting volunteers also joined the recovery efforts, and hundreds of people on vacation and from around the world donated supplies and money.
A committee chaired by Jenn Augustson created the Frisco “Really” Free Market at the Frisco VFD after the storm to organize and distribute the many donations. Marcia Laricos received recognition for being a daily volunteer as well as an animal advocate, as she made sure that there were supplies and pet food for our furry locals at the Frisco Free Market.
Lowes in KDH alone donated large dehumidifiers, large amounts of trash bags, Gatorade, flood buckets, pitchforks, rakes, gloves, and all the bug spray required. Som To, at KDH Lowes, donated entire trailer trucks full of supplies. However, because of the overwhelmingly generous donation of supplies, CERT now needed more storage.
CERT applied for and was approved for a grant in the amount of $8,900, which they promptly used to purchase a new 20-foot enclosed trailer to store supplies. The Manteo Lions Club generously donated a gated utility trailer, signs to help identify stations, blankets, and much-needed generators to aid the cause.
Other contributors that received special recognition at the meeting were Pierce Benefits Group, which donated $20,000 in large dehumidifiers to be used in homes all over Hatteras Island during this storm and many more to come. Moneysworth Beach Rentals donated plastic storage bins by the truck-full for families to be able to store their clothes, family albums, and personal belongings. NC Packs for Patriots donated truckloads of Girl Scout Cookies, which kept morale high and disappeared the fastest! And Dollar General in Waves received kudos and gratitude for allowing CERT to keep the enclosed trailer full of hurricane supplies in their elevated parking lot to prevent it from flooding. The students and faculty of Bear Grass High School, who arrived at the first volleyball game after the storm, also came loaded with supplies donated from hundreds of school kids!
The local CERT team logged over 4,000 volunteer hours alone during the hurricane response. Dorian Response Leaders Kenny Brite, Richard Marlin, Sandi Garrison, Jenn Augustson and Wayne Mathis were also recognized for their selfless volunteer expertise, alongside prominent and proactive volunteers including Joann Mattis, Marcia Laricos, and Ed Carey, who became a member during the recovery efforts. CERT members, headed up by Misty and Amberly, held a special thank you dinner for 60+ volunteers in late 2019 after it was all said and done.
Special recognition and plaques were given to the three main groups who proved paramount in their aid to Hatteras Island with their donations of food, supplies, and equipment. CERT members gave ultimate recognition to the Manteo Lions Club for their donation of the utility trailer, signs, blankets, bicycles, and generators. Michele Wright, Zone Chair, Mark Bateman, District Governor, Nancy Bateman, Lion, and Rick Hodgens, Lion, accepted the honor on behalf of the Manteo Lion’s club.
Special recognition and plaques were given to Som To, of Lowes in Kill Devil Hills, for the vital role she played in the recovery efforts. Som donated on behalf of Lowes ample supplies including water, cleaning supplies, hurricane buckets, dehumidifiers, and every blessed can of bug spray. According to Larry Ogden, “The marketing manager of Lowe’s loaded everything! I didn’t have to load anything!”
The Outer Banks Community Foundation its Director, Lorelei Costa, as well as members, Marryann Toboz and Scout Dixon were recognized with a special plaque as well. The OBCF donated three trailers full of equipment, storage units for donations and supplies, and supplied the $8,900 grant for the 20-foot enclosed truck trailer. The OBCF is also overseeing a larger Disaster Relief account and the $1.5 million from over 6,000 people worldwide!
CERT also recognized and welcomed new members for 2019: Jonna Midgette, Robert Midgette, Keith Douts, David Smith, Cheryl Pope, Kevin Toohey, Vance Haney, and Ed Carey.
Guest Speaker and County Commissioner Danny Couch praised CERT for the smooth recovery efforts, as well as NOAA for the spot-on predictions. He also congratulated all three groups saying, “We ALL have sand in our shoes…we know how to look out for each other.” Then he went on to boast of the 98% of donations to CERT that actually reached those in need. The meeting then took on a more somber tone, as he mentioned another initiative for house-raising, and the placement of an emergency ferry on standby for the next storm. Couch stated that he could no longer deny that the water table is rising, and that climate change is a real problem facing our community in the future.
“When the water comes, it has nowhere to go,” he said. “At some point, we have to balance the economy… with the environment.”
While every person in attendance was in agreement that the recovery effort for such a devastating storm with 5-7 feet of flooding across Hatteras Island was very well executed, and CERT leader Larry Ogden was very pleased with the “communication and cooperation during Dorian, Dorian presented opportunities for improvement before the next storm, and there will be a next storm.” As such, CERT members will be meeting with members of DCSS and DCEM this month to review response efforts and address areas for improvement.
CERT is looking forward to a productive 2020 with monthly refresher training on the second Thursday of each month. They also hope to speak with the Ocracoke community to expand CERT to Ocracoke Island. You can also look for your local CERT team spreading awareness and their message at the following locations in the coming year:
- On March 19, 2020 CERT is holding Blind and Hearing-Impaired training for emergency responders at the Hatteras Community Building.
- Attending the State CERT Conference
- Conducting Basic CERT Class for new members (April or May)
- CPR/AED Training (July)
- RWS Annual Yard Sale
- Day at the Docks
- Hatteras Christmas Parade