Gov. Mike Easley said he is comfortable the state could respond to a major hurricane strike, even though he has complained often that the demands of the Iraq War has left the North Carolina National Guard stretched too thin.
“We feel comfortable with what we have at this point,” Easley said. “We’d like more equipment, but we think we’re prepared.”
The Democrat, however, reiterated that the war on terror and in Iraq has left the National Guard without the time to train, or the resources it needs, to adequately respond to a multi-state catastrophe, such as a pandemic.
He again noted that while only 800 soldiers of the state’s 11,500 Guard members are deployed, the Guard only has about half of its assigned dual-use equipment in North Carolina. By September, in the height of the six-month hurricane season, the Guard only expects to have about 60 percent of its equipment on hand.
“The Guard cannot continue to work at an operational level rather than a strategic level much longer,” Easley said. “It just won’t work long term.”
In the event of a hurricane larger than a Category 3, Easley said the state would need to ask for help from its neighbors. Lt. Col. Steve Martin of the North Carolina National Guard said officials have prepared a list of items that the Guard may need from other states.
“We do not have, on the state level right now, the resources that it takes to respond the way governors want to respond,” Easley said.
Bryan Beatty, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, said the state can also use contract workers, the federal government and the active-duty military to help respond to a devastating storm.
Easley and other state leaders said they are more concerned about the public’s readiness for a catastrophic event. Easley said much of the state is unprepared for a hurricane and urged residents to prepare a disaster kit and evacuation plans.
“Being in a state of denial is not helpful, and it can lead to poor consequences,” Easley said.
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