Responding to a natural disaster such as Hurricane Floyd in the fashion that landed a governorís award for service and a U.S. Department of Agriculture honor award would be enough for most people. But not for the College and the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. Both refuse to rest on their laurels and even seek to improve what was done right.
Thatís the impetus behind the Collegeís new long-range recovery team. The team, led by Dr. Ed Jones, associate state program leader for natural resources and community and rural development, was created last fall to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Collegeís natural-disaster response through a more proactive approach.
"We need to use what we have learned from Hurricanes Fran and Floyd to be better organized to respond to the needs of the people we serve," says Jones. "If we turn on the television and see that a hurricane is heading for the Carolinas, this is when we should be putting things into motion."
Dunham will serve as the eyes and ears at the county level and relay updates as well as agent information needs to campus. After Hurricane Floyd, for example, Rockingham County agent Ben Chase organized hay and feed relief efforts while Duplin County Extension Director Ed Emory coordinated with the National Guard to help swine and poultry producers get access to their flooded farms. Dunham will focus on such county level resource needs, which could range from rescue and cleanups to relocation.
Havlinís role is to organize specialists and to improve specialist availability and response by appointing a natural disaster contact for each department within the College. Through such a system, agents will be able to receive from the specialists information about issues that Hurricane Floyd brought to the forefront of the Collegeís disaster-response initiative.
For example, specialists and agents from the department of family and consumer sciences (FCS) will continue to target the issues that touch families during natural disasters. FCS will focus on child stress counseling, on salvage (which home furnishings can be saved and which ones should be discarded), and on the often overlooked safety issues that arise during such events, such as food quality and mold and mildew concerns. The department will also work through agents to keep people informed of potential fraud, such as in home repair, that follows many natural disasters.
Gray will oversee the information exchange between specialists and agents. Just as in Hurricane Floyd, Gray plans for the communication services department to use local television, newspapers, radio stations and the World Wide Web to get information from specialists to everyone who needs it. For example, communication services has initiated the Road to Recovery Web site. The site, www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/agcomm/writing/recovery, serves as a clearinghouse for technical recovery issues brought about by Hurricane Floyd and will be continuously updated. It features information like the effects of the hurricane on eastern North Carolina soils and recommendations for fixing these problems.
Jones serves as Extensionís resource person at the state emergency operations center during emergencies like Floyd, rotating shifts with Dr. Greg Jennings, associate state program leader for agriculture and natural resources.
"This teamís main goal is to develop a strategy that allows Extension to be even more responsive to the needs of North Carolinians," says Jones. "We want to create some type of structure that is geared more by anticipation and preparation so that the Collegeís response will benefit more people."
To ensure that such a plan will come to fruition, the team will brainstorm as many scenarios as possible and evaluate the best way for the College to address them. Team members will focus on both the immediate and long-term effects of natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and ice storms and devise a plan for campus and field faculty to follow.
Jones says the teamís new disaster response plan will be available this spring.