"I've gotten four or five hours of sleep here and there," he said. It doesn't bother him. He was filing out an Excel spreadsheet, listening to the emergency scanner, taking phone calls, all while answering questions about the outer parts of Hurricane Matthew storming through
Seagroves has been the director of the
As he prepared for Matthew, Seagroves said there's only so much he and his department can do.
"You can't stop it," he said. "You prepare for the worst case scenario and then hope for the best. The best thing we can do is prepare and be ready."
Seagroves talked to the Herald about the OES' response to Matthew, what he and his team did while the storm was going through the county and how they catalog damages. He also discussed the tornado that came through
What's the first thing that you and your team do when a hurricane is headed here?
I actually start watching those storms when they come off the coast of
There's lots of layers when you think about who all is involved with the storm. It's not just the fire departments and EMS and law enforcement. It goes back to our health department to DSS (
You have to make sure that your positions are at least two deep, so that
What are your specific responsibilities before the storm hits?
To insure that everybody is prepared, that all of our partner agencies are prepared for the storm, and even more than that make sure the public is aware of what's going on, urging people to pay attention to weather forecasts, to have good situational awareness. A big part of my job is keeping the county manager and board of commissioners informed. That way they can relay that information on to the public. They get tons and tons of phone calls. Response, and then also making sure everyone is aware of what's happening.
What is it like waiting for the storm, knowing it's coming but not being able to stop it?
It makes you nervous. There is nothing you can do about it. You worry about the people around here, you worry about your family. It's the same way with any emergency management office around the state -- you're no longer responsible for four or five of your family members, you're responsible for the entire county. That's the stressful part of it, because you don't want to see anybody lose their homes or get injured.
The biggest thing about this job is you have to multitask like crazy. This is not a good experience for somebody who has to complete object A and then move to B and to C and to D, because we're A through Z at the same time, and it can get quite hectic. We've got good staff here, we've got good support in the EOC (
When the storm's coming through, where are you and what are you doing?
We're sitting here (at the emergency management office) firing emails off, basically about every two hours to our department heads for the county, to the city manager, to the county manager, to our commissioners list. We've got a weather alert group that has people in there from facility managers to the school superintendent, putting that information out, basically putting out sit reps, situational reports -- how many power outages we have, how many calls we had responded to, to date for that day, any special circumstances we have, any places that had been hit.
We try to push out to social media too. We use Facebook and Twitter to get information out. Basically we're sitting there watching what's going on. The whole thing, being able to multitask and (delegate responsibilities), that works great. It's a team effort. One person would not do it. If you lost communications, you're dead in the water.
How do you go about assessing the damage?
Technology has changed throughout the years. We use software. (Seagroves pulls up an app on his phone.) I hit start. It knows what my salary is, what my fringes are. It tracks my mileage on the road while I'm driving, for reimbursement. Then I pull up at a structure. It pulls in the address. Do they have business continuity insurance? Primary cause of damage? Number of days closed, number of employees, how much damage to the structure. You can go in and take photos of the structure. It just speeds the process up.
That information comes back to (another software). It shows you all the paths that people are driving, it shows you where those structures are at. It does road closures, commercial, citizens' request, residential damage. It shows when it was done, when it was completed, date and time, latitude and longitude, name of the homeowner.
Used to we'd have to do this all manually. Not anymore. It's very fast to do it. You can literally go house-to-house and enter this information. This (app) really speeds up the process. You can do more with a cell phone now than you could with a computer two years ago. It's definitely helped our job a lot.
Is there ever a point where things get back to normal for you and your department?
It depends on how you define "normal." I think it gets back to a certain degree of normal, but I think there will always be certain things that remind you. The tornado, it put a lot of fear in kids and adults. Tornado warning comes out, and everybody remembers 2011 and how it was.
I won't ever forget the tornado. I won't ever forget this. When it hits your community, it's different because you know these people. It affects you more. You definitely have an emotional tie to what goes on in your own community. That connection definitely adds to the stress of it.
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