Emergency officials prepare for hurricane season with simulation exercise

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – For many people, living near the coast is a scary reality when Mother Nature's worst rolls through -- nothing can stop it.

But luckily, coastal residents aren't alone. Emergency personnel participated in a day-long simulation exercise Tuesday in an effort to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season.

Each year, New Hanover County Emergency Management and partnering agencies take part in the event at the Emergency Operations Center in Wilmington to ensure they are ready for the potential storms.

Officials managed scenarios from a fictional hurricane. The Emergency Operations Center and Joint Information Center were activated to practice emergency plans and procedures for a potential hurricane landfall.

Captain Donald Taft says no matter the job description, when severe weather closes in, the ranks come down to a team of public servants ready to do anything.

Grabbing the emblem on his sleeve, Taft said, "It doesn't matter that this says sheriff on it or it says Wilmington Police or City Fire."

Director of Emergency Management Warren Lee talked about the importance of paying attention to county alerts during evacuations.

"Everyone is reluctant to leave their home; no one wants to leave their home," he said, adding that every warning is accurate -- not overprotective. "We would not issue a mandatory evacuation warning if we didn't feel like your life might be in danger."

Officials said that they aren't necessarily doing anything new this year to prepare, but they did say they're coming up with a new way of releasing information to the media in a faster, more uniform way.

Earlier this year, hurricane forecasting experts at Colorado State released their prediction for the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. If their forecast is correct it would appear 2012 should feature below normal tropical activity in terms of named storms and hurricanes.

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