Surry County disaster team may deploy to Texas

By Tom Joyce -

As officials in the Houston area deal with its devastating effects, Hurricane Harvey’s reach also is extending hundreds of miles away to Surry County where specially trained personnel are poised to help.

“They have already called us and asked us to put folks on standby, and we have done that,” Surry Emergency Services Director John Shelton said Tuesday.

“I’m not sure we’ll deploy them or not,” Shelton added of members of the local Incident Management Team.

A kind of precedent has been set for sending local emergency personnel to the scene of a natural disaster elsewhere in the country, which occurred after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Shelton was in Louisiana for two and a half weeks to assist there.

And as Hurricane Harvey battered Houston and other parts of Texas, the state emergency management office in North Carolina put out a call for possible assistance from the Tar Heel State for the latest calamity.

Shelton said personnel in Surry County are equipped to deal with such disasters, due to being certified in incident management. The local team contains about eight members with specialized skills for crisis situations, including representatives of emergency medical services, fire services and two trainers at Surry Community College.

“We’ve been deployed to several disasters in the state,” Shelton said.

There is chance that at least a couple of Incident Management Team members could be heading to Texas. “We don’t want to move any equipment, of course,” Shelton added, “because that’s too far.”

Those deployed from Surry likely would serve in roles such as manning command posts, he said of functions that would make best use of their talents. Any such assignment would be for a minimum of two weeks.

As of Tuesday, Shelton said he would guess that no local deployment to the Houston area actually will occur, “being that our state is so far away.”

However, the Tar Heel State — including members of the local Incident Management Team — could be turned to because of their experience in responding to previous disasters on the coast similar to what’s happening in Texas.

“That would be the only thing that would turn them to North Carolina,” Shelton said of emergency management officials in Texas reaching out to this part of the country.

“But right now we’re on standby,” he added Tuesday.

By Tom Joyce

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.