FORSYTH COUNTY, NC – Triad emergency officials are watching rescue efforts closely as crews work to pull thousands of people from the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey in Texas.
The images out of Houston are heartbreaking but Forsyth County Emergency Management Director Mel Sadler says they can also serve as a teaching tool.
Instead of watching the people being rescued, Sadler says they’re watching the first responders in action – learning from how they move and how they communicate.
"Even with planning, that's really going to be overwhelming,” said Sadler. “Nobody can possibly plan for or prepare for anywhere near this proportion. What we are looking at here is unprecedented.
After the flood waters have receded, Sadler says his team will review “after action reports” from the crews on the scene.
Sadler says they’ll use those reports to gauge the preparation work being done locally to make sure his agency is on the same page with other emergency officials in the area.
"We can review those and kind of get an idea of what they went through,” said Sadler. “The unanticipated things they encountered and the things they anticipated that they encountered that went well."
Sadler says his crews train for disaster response on a weekly basis.
They pool resources together with other agencies and community groups.
They also have a list of emergency shelter locations including mainly middle and high schools because they have showers.
But if large scale flooding happened in the Triad, Sadler says they would have to use larger buildings like the Benton Convention Center or the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
“Something like this is totally unprecedented,” said Sadler. “But you don't have to deviate from what you have already planned for. You just have to do it all on a much larger scale. It's going to involve more equipment, more people, we will have to call people from outside just as they are doing right now. We know we cannot handle it with the internal resources we have."
A spokesperson for the Greensboro Coliseum says the complex could serve as a shelter during an emergency and they would make those arrangements in with federal and state authorities if the need ever comes.
Sadler says the catastrophic flooding in Texas has been a reminder for emergency officials to make sure the community is ready in case of a disaster.
There are three things everyone should do in order to stay prepared, according to Sadler:
1. Stay informed. Don't let a crisis sneak up on you.
2. Prepare an emergency kit with a flashlight, bottled water, a first aid kit, and other supplies.
3. Have a plan. Make sure everyone close to you knows where to go and what to do.