Friday, June 13, 2014 —
In the hours following the microburst storm that hit Stanly County on June 13, 2013, emergency personnel from the city of Albemarle and around the county worked tirelessly to respond to the damage and destruction.
Despite the extensive effort from emergency personnel to respond to the storm, officials throughout the city of Albemarle and Stanly County feel they were prepared.
“Everything went as it should,” said Brian Simpson, director for Stanly County Emergency Services.
“It was chaotic, but it was managed chaos. We had a lot of responders and a lot of volunteers, but everyone responded as they should.”
Albemarle Fire Department called in extra support to assist with the response.“Once the storm hit, we increased our staffing by recalling all off-duty personnel, which increased our on-duty staffing of 12 personnel to 31 personnel,” Fire Chief Shawn Oke said.
“We maintained the maximum number of personnel from the time the storm hit until about 11:30 p.m. Once the demand for responses dropped we began reducing our staffing numbers.”
The majority of the calls the department received at that time were for fallen trees, which had toppled onto houses and into roadways. Due to the extent of the damage and the increased potential for emergency response throughout the city, AFD maintained an increased active duty staff until June 16.
“We incurred personnel overtime expenses totaling $7,266.56 from June 13 through June 16,” Oke said, adding that the city received a percentage of that as a reimbursement from the state of North Carolina after the city received a disaster declaration.
Oke said the response needed for last year’s microburst showed the department that there might be a concern about getting mutual aid in incidences with widespread impact.
“We realized during this response that mutual aid may be delayed to our department because agencies normally providing mutual aid were busy responding to incidents within their districts,” Oke said.
“The storm clearly showed us that we must call for additional help early and call for plenty of it. We learned that we must have good communications with the Stanly County Emergency Operations Center so the additional resources needed by our department can be obtained without delay.”
Albemarle Police Department also had numerous officers on duty following the storm, with approximately 29 officers dispatched, some of which were on duty when the storm hit. Officers helped to set up barricades around fallen trees, while also managing response for services around the city. According to Chief William Halliburton, the department incurred more than $3,000 in storm related expenses, a portion of which was reimbursed.
The storm also showed the department that some areas needed improvement, according to Halliburton.
“We have met with city officials and now have a more unified command system in place where department heads would gather and render resources as needed,” he said.
“This is still in process, but we have almost reconstructed our emergency management system for the entire city, which had not been updated for a long period of time. It is now current, though.”
Stanly County Sheriff’s Office also dispatched deputies to areas around the county that were affected by the storm.
“We had some issues out in the county, but most of it was routine,” Sheriff Rick Burris said.
“We had a lot of calls for fallen trees and downed power lines, but most of the damage was inside the city.”
Due to the number of fallen trees and the increase in emergency response calls, a secondary 911 call center was opened in the immediate hours after the storm to field the high call volume. County Manager Andy Lucas explained that this is a routine procedure for this kind of incident.
“Any time we have any kind of incident of that magnitude, whether it’s a natural disaster or a significant accident or spill or a shooting, we activate the back-up call center,” Lucas said, adding that new technology allows for both the primary and the back-up centers to operate simultaneously.
By having the second call center open, responders were able to receive calls for service despite the increased number of calls, Lucas said.
Emergency crews also set up a temporary shelter at Albemarle High School following the storm to provide assistance for those who had been displaced during the storm. There were no reports of the shelter being utilized, however.
Tiffany Thompson is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press.