POLICE Magazine

DEC 2018

Magazine for police and law enforcement

Issue link: https://policemag.epubxp.com/i/1058219

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Page 44 of 60

42 POLICE DECEMBER 2018 "We watched the storm on the map over a 12-hour shift, and it barely moved," says Fanta. In accordance with their agency's pol- icy, officers of the Wilmington PD were back on the street on Sept. 14 after the storm was downgraded from a hurricane. Because the policy allows for response to life-and-death calls, some of the officers had also been dispatched on priority calls in the teeth of the hurricane, including a domestic violence case that led to an ar- rest, but mostly they took shelter until the storm weakened. e wind speed weakened but the ef- fects of the storm intensified. Fanta says that for the officers of the Wilmington PD, the night that followed was much worse than when the hurricane force winds were blowing in the city. ere was no power, no streetlights, tornadoes were touching down, and torrential rain fell in blackout conditions. "Officers said they couldn't see over the hoods of their vehi- cles," he says. e rain came down so hard and so quickly that the Wilmington PD lost seven patrol vehicles to the rapidly rising waters. Fortunately, no officers were injured. But conditions soon deteriorated to the point that the department's command had no choice but to take their officers off the street. "We had to withdraw police services," Fanta says. When Wilmington officers went back out on the streets, they quickly discovered that their city had changed. e heav y rain had flooded almost every access road into the city, includ- ing I-40 and U.S. 74-76, which connect coastal city of 30,000 people was likely to get some flooding. New Bern Chief of Police Toussaint E. Summers Jr. says there was even concern that police headquarters would flood. Accordingly, the department relocated its function to two different locations on higher ground with one on each side of the river just in case the other was dis- abled by the flooding. e New Bern PD also moved its emergency vehicles to an area that flood waters were not expected to reach. "e only thing we kept here at headquarters was the communications center. ey are on the third floor," says Summers. e predicted flooding did not hit po- lice headquarters. But much of the city, which lies just upriver from Pamlico Sound and at the confluence of the Neu- se and Trent rivers, was inundated. By the end of the week, swift water rescue teams had saved 800 people in some 400 different incidents just within the New Bern city limits. e primary police role in these rescues was security. Each team went out with an armed officer in the boat, just in case of hostile action. Fortunately, no one attacked the rescuers. New Bern and surrounding jurisdic- tions had one advantage that agencies in the Wilmington area did not. Because ac- cess to New Bern was not disrupted by the flooding as it was in Wilmington, officers from other agencies were able to help. Of- ficers and firefighters came from as far the Wilmington area to the rest of North Carolina. e city was virtually an island. Which meant getting aid and personnel in and out was extremely difficult. Worse, many of the city's streets were flooded or blocked by fallen trees. So of- ficers responding to calls had to find new ways around town. "It was a maze," Fanta says. "Officers had to find ways to navigate through it, and it was very frustrating. Sometimes they had to start over again trying to get to their destinations." NEW BERN Days before Florence made landfall, the public safety officials in the city of New Bern could follow the storm track and pre- dict that Florence was coming for North Carolina. ey also knew the historic T he experiences of the Wilmington, NC, and New Bern, NC, police departments during and immediately after Hurricane Florence offer a number of lessons for agencies facing impending hurricane impact. • All hurricanes regardless of category strength can lead to devastating flooding. • It's important to have mutual aid agreements with agencies outside your immedi- ate region. In a major disaster all of your neighboring agencies could be too busy to help you. • A major storm can cut off your resupply of food, water, fuel, and other necessi- ties. If you can, conserve resources before the disaster strikes. • Have a detailed plan for what to do in case of disaster in your region. The plan should emphasize what to do in case of your most common disaster. • Protect your vehicle fleet from flooding. It's also a good idea to have a variety of vehicle types in your fleet. • Know what the federal bureaucracy will require of you before the disaster strikes. New Bern Chief of Police Toussaint E. Summers Jr. says it's important to have access to the right forms and to know how to fill them out and submit them when working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). • Expect the unexpected. No matter how well you think you've planned, things can and will go wrong. New Bern officers dealt with flooded and tree-blocked streets as they tried to help residents affected by the storm. Hurricane Florence Lessons Learned PHOTO: NEW BERN (NC) PD WEATHERING THE STORM

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