RENCI at ECU and Dare County Emergency Management Conduct Hurricane Decision-Making Exercise
June 9, 2010
RENCI at ECU director Dr. Tom Allen designed and led an informative hurricane response tabletop exercise for decision makers in several coastal counties on June 8, 2010 in Manteo, N.C. The exercise was planned in cooperation with Dare County Emergency Manager Sandy Sanderson, National Weather Service (NWS) forecaster Rich Bandy, and Virginia emergency management officials. For the exercise, Allen and his team modeled a simulated hurricane named Felix, a major hurricane with land-fall occurring in Dare County, which would trigger a mass evacuation of North Carolina coastal counties and the Hampton Roads, Virginia, area. Sanderson invited a number of officials who would be involved in the event of a real emergency to participate in the interactive evacuation and decision-making exercise. Attendees included local elected officials and their government staff, law enforcement supervisors, the Hatteras National Seashore superintendent and emergency management officials from Virginia.
After a welcome from Mr. Sanderson, Dr. Allen presented a brief seminar to update the local officials and staff on the changes to the NWS forecast products and the HURREVAC decision-support tool that were used in the exercise. Of particular interest were changes to the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale and the timing of watches and warnings issued by the NWS. RENCI at ECU storm surge visualization products were also demonstrated and discussed. The hurricane scenario was presented to the decision-makers as a series of NWS briefings, HURREVAC models, and visualizations as the storm neared the coast. The exercise provided an opportunity for participants to learn about information sources available to them during a hurricane, how and when decisions about evacuation are made, and how communication is maintained. Participants had the opportunity to provide feedback about types of information products and communications they found useful and which they need to make decision during a hurricane emergency.
Renci at ECU staff, including Stephen Sanchagrin, Technology Coordinator; and Nick Lee, undergraduate student assistant, assisted in developing materials for the exercise and were on hand to help with the technical logistics. The exercise was monitored by Renci at ECU staff and ECU faculty including Michelle Covi, Outreach Coordinator; Donna Kain, Director of Outreach and Communication; ECU researcher Burrell Montz, Chair of the Department of the Department of Geography. Dr. Allen and the team plan to use input fro monitors and participant evaluations to refine and develop new visualization products and plan for future exercises.