EH&S to Lead UNC System-Wide Exercise on Hurricane, Disaster Response in 2017

Monday, November 28, 2016

Hurricane season ends Nov. 30, but UNCW is already preparing for the 2017 season. The university will be the lead coordinator for an exercise to test response plans for a potentially catastrophic hurricane. The event, scheduled for Oct. 15-18, 2017, will be the first full-scale exercise involving all 16 University of North Carolina campuses.

The scenario involves fictional a Category 5 storm, “Hurricane Zephyr.” An Emergency Operations Center will be set up to simulate actions that are taken before, during and after a major hurricane, such as making the decision to close the university, evacuate students, assess damage and reopen.

The incident management team will include emergency managers from Appalachian State, UNC Asheville, Western Carolina and Winston-Salem State. UNC Greensboro will house 35 to 45 “evacuees” for 24 hours during the exercise. UNC system participants will work closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the NC Division of Emergency Management.

“This exercise provides invaluable training that will be used to prepare the campus for any event that would require evacuation and closure, not just a hurricane,” said Eric Griffin, UNCW’s assistant director of Environmental Health and Safety/emergency manager. “This exercise allows us to build strong partnerships that will benefit us in any significant emergency in the future.”

UNCW has never tested plans for a catastrophic event that relies on other UNC campuses for support, Griffin noted. Planning for the exercise began in October 2015. It will enable emergency management coordinators to practice preparation and response as a team, as well as identify ways to strengthen the plan, he said.

-- Tricia Vance