Colin McKnight

The U.S. Geological Survey stated that North Carolina was recently hit by its third and fourth earthquakes in a week on Tuesday, as reported by the News & Observer. While these earthquakes were very light compared to what other parts of the nation face, with the third earthquake coming in at a barely noticeable 1.8 magnitude and the fourth at 1.7, these tremors still bring up a major topic that needs discussing: North Carolina’s emergency preparedness.

Like many other states, North Carolina must constantly be prepared for any type of sudden disaster situation, such as earthquakes, fires, mudslides and tornadoes. Of course, the two threats North Carolinians are probably too accustomed to are hurricanes and flooding. While a certain level of carnage is always inevitable no matter how much you prepare, the problem lies in the fact that North Carolina simply is not as prepared as it could be for a disaster scenario.

A major portion of the problem is our abysmal infrastructure, which is another problem all on its own. 24/7 Wall Street conducted a study that found North Carolina’s infrastructure the 11th worst in the country. They found over 40 percent of our dams “at high hazard risk” and almost 10 percent of our bridges to be “deficient.”

Apparently, not only is our state infrastructure suffering, but fixing the problem has become pushed aside.  The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, in their 2018 report, stated that the state government has “changed the adoption cycle of the state residential code from three years to six years.”

Furthermore, they concluded that “North Carolina needs to reinstate regular updates of the state residential code and ensure that statewide requirements are consistently updated based on national model codes and standards.” Not keeping those codes up-to-date means buildings may not be as safe and structurally sound as they could be.

This kind of collapsing infrastructure is nothing but a catastrophe waiting to happen. Utilities that are barely hanging on as-is are bound to end in destruction and tragedy during a disaster scenario. While it may seem a costly endeavor to disaster-proof so much of our infrastructure, it could save many lives in the long run. Obviously, there are more reasons to repair our failing infrastructure, both in the state and the country, than just emergency preparedness, but this is definitely one of the most prominent ones.

Another problem that our state — like plenty of others — faces is a lack of emergency preparedness and response information among the public. In an interview with Public News Service, former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate said that “too many people in North Carolina are told they don't live in a flood zone, yet they still have a flood risk.” This is just one of many examples of how North Carolinians are in the dark on the real threats from mother nature and how to be ready.

There needs to be a more efficient, instructional and wide-reaching educational program for the public on the subject of disaster readiness. This campaign should make use of commercials on radio, television and other platforms. While there are certainly efforts already being made on these mediums, the fact is that they could be, and need to be, more extensive. Furthermore, with the massive migration to social media and other digital platforms, it is vital that emergency preparedness education make that same jump too.

Emergency preparedness is just as important at the school level. As far as our university goes, while it is true that groundskeeping and maintenance do an excellent job of maintaining a safe, up-to-date, and structurally sound campus, we still must be prepared for the worst. Educating students and faculty on what to do in these kinds of scenarios should be a top priority.

The impact of our state being hit with a large-scale disaster will be worsened if we don’t take the matter more seriously. Our state is still recovering from the damages caused by Hurricane Matthew nearly two years ago, meaning we are absolutely not at full strength to handle the situation if something similar pops up again this season. The responsibility of preparation falls both on our government and on the public. While our state does require more maintenance, we as individuals need to be ready and educated when disaster strikes.