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Jun 4, 2024

A Public Service Profile on Communicating in the Face an Emergency

Sponsored Content provided by Chris Coudriet - County Manager, New Hanover County Government


As an organization, New Hanover County has nearly 40 departments overseeing an array of programs, facilities and initiatives throughout this place we call home. Every day, dedicated staff members show up to make sure our residents and visitors have access to these resources, helping create a thriving community for all. 
 
For most of these departments, the work wraps up as the day winds down and starts again the next morning. But for three groups, the service they provide isn’t limited to regular business hours, as they stand ready to respond when our community needs it most. 
 
Dialing 911 will connect a caller to one of our dedicated communications specialists in the Emergency Call Center, allowing help to be dispatched quickly. And, depending on the location of the event, there’s a chance one of our Fire Rescue stations will be called into action, rendering assistance when it is needed most. 
 
While those everyday emergencies are important, it’s equally crucial to have a team ready for significant events like storms or other disasters. Emergency Management is always working on strategies and best practices to help keep all of us safe. 
 
Together, these three departments tirelessly devote themselves to making sure our community has the necessary resources and tools to be as safe as possible. 
 
Everything these teams do is vital to safety, but it’s equally important to have a way of communicating with you, our customers, about the work taking place to keep you safe. We want everyone to be ready for an emergency, especially living by the coast, as storms off the ocean and other events can impact our region at any time.
 
That’s where Caress Clegg, our Communications and Outreach Coordinator for emergency services, comes in. 
 
Since joining our team last year, Caress has worked with these three departments to make sure the community is aware of the services they provide, the strategies they are using to keep us safe and bring awareness to how we can be ready for the moment a disaster impacts our lives. 
 
For this month’s Public Service Profile, I chatted with Caress about her role in helping inform the public on the work of our emergency teams, including the new alerting system residents can sign up for to help keep them informed. That conversation is below … 
 
Caress, I can say without hesitation that you have hit the ground running since joining the Communications and Outreach Department last year. I know you’ve been a member of the New Hanover County community for some time, but I’m sure it’s been an adjustment taking on this new role. What’s the process been like acclimating to the emergency world?
 
Transitioning into the world of emergency services has required a significant adjustment, with the biggest change being the constant need to think and plan for crises. In this field, there's no room for "what if" scenarios; instead, the mindset is always "when." I’ve quickly learned that being involved in this field demands a high level of proactiveness, constantly anticipating potential emergencies. Being proactive ensures we are better equipped to respond and support those we serve.
 
This adjustment has been a welcome change as I have immersed myself in the world of emergency services. I’m proud of the role I get to play in helping ensure our community's resilience and preparedness. It’s certainly been a lot to learn, but it’s important information I get to share and highlight each day. 
 
We talk a lot about big storms off the ocean and the impacts they can have on our community, but an emergency can happen anywhere at any time. I’m curious – what’s something you’ve learned since coming into this position that you feel the community should be aware of so they can be prepared for an emergency?
Since joining the team, I have learned so much about the resources available in our county to respond to emergencies and I’m proud that my role is all about sharing what’s happening to keep everyone safe with our community. 
 
For instance, the new Incident Command Bus that will go into service this fall will enhance our response capabilities. Programs like the Access & Functional Needs Registry ensure that our vulnerable populations receive necessary provisions during an event. 
 
Additionally, our first responders demonstrate remarkable preparedness, exemplified by Fire Rescue's leadership with the North Carolina Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Taskforce 11. Many NHCFR staff are integral members of Taskforce 11, assisting communities across North Carolina when they are overwhelmed by disasters. 
 
I encourage everyone to familiarize themselves with the tools available at ReadyNHC.com. There are numerous resources available, and we are eager to share and highlight how these benefit New Hanover County citizens every day, not just during times of crisis.
 
Being informed is so crucial, especially this time of year as the tropics start to heat up. I know you’ve been helping to get messaging out about the revamped alerting system and why it’s important. Tell me a little bit about this new tool, how people can sign up and what they should expect when they register. 
 
Many of us have heard predictions that this will be a busy hurricane season. I've been fortunate to step into this role at a time when Emergency Management and Communications & Outreach were in the early stages of establishing a new Emergency Alert System. This system can send timely messaging to our community through the medium they use most – their cell phones.
 
We recently launched the ReadyNHC Emergency Alerts system, which allows us to send notifications to our residents and also to visitors in the community. What makes the program unique is how easy it is to register for. Anyone can simply text “ReadyNHC” to 24639 or “ListoNHC” to 24639 for Spanish, and they are automatically registered to receive alerts. It’s that simple.
 
These messages will be sent strictly for emergencies, so residents won't need to worry about being bombarded with numerous notifications from the county. When you receive one of our messages, you know it is because our community is at risk from a severe emergency requiring your immediate attention.
 
Residents can customize their alerts by visiting the ReadyNHC Alerts online portal. Through the portal, individuals can opt to receive notifications specifically tailored to their neighborhood, choose their preferred language for emergency alerts, and set additional custom settings.
 
I appreciate Caress and all she does to highlight the work of our amazing staff with 911 Communications, Fire Rescue and Emergency Management. I’d encourage you to follow our Fire Rescue (FacebookInstagram) or Emergency Management (Facebook) teams on social media. They provide a lot of good updates on ways you can be prepared before disaster strikes. And I’ll echo Caress in asking everyone to sign up for our new emergency alerting system by texting ReadyNHC to 24639 or texting ListoNHC to 24639 for those seeking updates in Spanish. It’s a great way to stay informed so you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe. 

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