What is Emergency Management?

Emergency Management is the combined efforts of local, state and federal governments to protect the citizens from the effects of disasters, both natural and man-made. The local Office of Emergency Management works to identify and analyze the hazards that may face Ashe County and develop contingency plans for each hazard. The plans are regularly tested, refined and tested again, all with the goal of protecting or saving lives and property.

The Emergency Management Office uses a four-phase approach to emergencies: Mitigation, Preparedness, Response and Recovery, which are known collectively as the Emergency Management Cycle.

What does local Emergency Management do?

The office provides a variety of services to the citizens of Ashe County. Pamphlets and information are available through the office to assist in planning for tornadoes, hurricanes, winter storms, fire safety, flood protection measures and preparing a Disaster Supplies Kit. The Ashe County Emergency Management Office has been tasked with the responsibility of planning for the protection of lives and property of the citizens of Ashe County. Planning consists of identifying potential manmade and natural disasters that could affect our area. These potential disasters are identified through a Hazard Analysis.

During a disaster situation, Emergency Management is the lead agency in coordinating resources in the county and resources that other state and local agencies may supply Ashe County. Another function of Emergency Management is to plan for and assist in responding to accidents involving hazard materials and mitigating the effects of a release or spill. The office works very closely with all local emergency services agencies to include the 12 volunteer fire departments that provide fire services to the county as well as the local rescue squad, two ambulance services, sheriff’s office, and one private and two town police departments.

How do I contact the local Emergency Management Office?

The Ashe County Emergency Management Office is located in the Courthouse at 150 Government Circle Suite 2400 in Jefferson. Office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. You can also reach the agency at 336.846.5521, fax 336.846.5523 or by email at emc@ashecountygov.com

What are the four phases of Emergency Management?

There are four basic parts or activities that make up the Emergency Management program concept. These are mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.

1.  Mitigation

Activities which are designed to either prevent the occurrence of an emergency or minimize the potentially adverse effects of an emergency, including the following:

  • Building / Fire Codes / Floodplain Management
  • Identification of Resources
  • Procurement of Equipment
  • Public Education
  • Disaster / Flood Insurance

2.  Preparedness

Activities, programs and systems which exist prior to an emergency and are used to support and enhance response to an emergency or disaster. Public education, planning, training, and exercising are among the activities conducted under this phase as well as:

  • Identification of Hazards
  • Development of Emergency Plans and Guidelines
  • Establish and Maintain Emergency Operations Center (EOC)
  • Acquire Equipment/Resources
  • Test and Maintain Equipment
  • Continuity of Government

3.  Response

Activities and programs designed to address the immediate effects of the onset of an emergency or disaster and help to reduce casualties, damage, and to speed recovery. Coordination, Warning, Evacuation, and Mass Care are examples of Response. The response phase includes some of the following resources:

  • Fire and Rescue Services
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Security/Law Enforcement
  • Volunteer Disaster Services
  • Public Works & Utilities
  • Health Services
  • Protective Actions

4.  Recovery

Activities involving restoring systems to normal. Recovery actions are taken to assess damage and return vital life support systems to minimum operating standards; long term Recovery may continue for many years. Recovery activities include the following:

  • Decontamination
  • Damage Assessment
  • Debris Clearance
  • Disaster Assistance

What should I do in case of a fire?

Never attempt to extinguish a large fire that is out of control. You should get everyone out of the house or structure and dial 9-1-1 immediately. You could attempt to put out a small fire with a fire extinguisher, garden hose or smothering it (depending on the type fire), but if the fire does not immediately go out call 9-1-1. Always remember if your clothing catches on fire “DO NOT RUN”, running makes the fire spread faster. “STOP”, “DROP” AND “ROLL” until the fire is smothered out. Doing this could save your life. We have free fire safety information, just call us at 336.846.5521.

How do smoke detectors work?

To understand how smoke detectors work you must realize that smoke is not just a cloud of gas, it is actually made of very small carbon particles suspended in the air. Rather than detecting heat or flames like other detectors, smoke detectors can detect smoke even before it is visible to the human eye by detecting these small carbon particles. For their early warning abilities, they are recommended for use in living areas instead of heat detectors.

There are two types of smoke detectors which use two different mechanisms to detect these particles. The ionization type, which is the most widely used, employs a weak source of radiation to ionize the atoms of air in a special chamber. When these particles are ionized, it results in a very weak electric current being produced in this chamber. Carbon particles entering the chamber interfere with the ionized air particles causing a reduction in the amount of this weak electric current and the detector sounds an alarm.

The second type of smoke detector is a photo-electric detector which uses a projected beam of light in a special chamber. When smoke particles enter the chamber, the beam of light is either blocked out or dimmed by the particles causing the alarm to activate. This type detector is a little more expensive than the ionization type, but since it detects larger smoke particles, it can be used closer to kitchen areas without being accidentally setoff by normal cooking activities (unless you burn something on your range).

At least one smoke detector should be installed on every level of a home, and in every bedroom. Detectors should be tested regularly to make sure that batteries are functioning and batteries changed at least once a year.

What happens when I call the 9-1-1 number?

All 9-1-1 calls made in Ashe County are answered at the Ashe County 9-1-1 Communications Center in Jefferson (co-located with the Ashe County Jail). The Communications Center is staffed 24 hours a day, year round by trained professional telecommunicators. When a call is received, in addition to voice contact, the telecommunicator receives a computer data base file showing the listed address, name and phone number from the phone where the call is being placed. Because of the number of changes that occur in the phone company database or the possibility of an incorrect address, the telecommunicator will confirm all information before dispatching an emergency unit. You should as calmly as possible advise the telecommunicator exactly what type emergency it is and answer questions being asked. To assist emergency personnel in locating your residence during an emergency, your street address must be clearly displayed to be visible from both directions of travel. REMEMBER, 9-1-1 IS ONLY FOR EMERGENCIES. For non-emergencies, contact the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office at 336.846.5600.

For additional information contact the Ashe County 9-1-1 Communications Center at 336.846.5600 or the E911 Addressing Coordinator at 336. 846.5520.

What does the term HAZMAT mean?

HAZMAT is a term used when referring to hazardous materials. These are substances or materials that due to their chemical, physical or biological nature, pose a potential risk to life, health or the environment if they are released. Hazardous materials can be solids, liquids or gases and transported in a variety of containers. They are transported daily through Ashe County by roadway and over the county by commercial aircraft. In the future, they will also be transported via pipeline. A HAZMAT incident can range from a small fuel spill on the highway to a major release from a chemical plant or storage facility that might have lasting effects on a community.

What should I do if I am close to a Hazardous Materials accident?

The very first actions you should take, if you witness the accident, is to get far enough away, upwind and uphill from the accident to reduce your chances of being contaminated or injured by the product or an explosion, which might occur if the product is unstable or if there is the possibility of a fire. You should then call 9-1-1 and give them as much information as possible concerning the accident, spill or leak.

If you are at home and learn that a Hazardous Materials accident has occurred near you, stay away from the accident location. Shut all windows and doors, turn off air conditioning equipment, heat pumps or other air handling equipment with outside air intakes. Turn your radio or TV on to local stations where you will be advised what to do and where to go. If told to evacuate, you will receive instructions on the evacuation route and where the nearest shelter will be. If you have small children at school do not try to pick them up. They will be moved to a shelter outside the affected area or cared for within the safety of the school building. To avoid overloading the phone system and cutting off the ability for those who need immediate help, do not use the telephone to call the schools, relatives or friends.

If you happen to be in your car, you should roll up all windows and shut all vents off. Listen to a local radio station for information concerning the event and where to go. Try to stay back a safe distance, uphill and upwind of the accident. If you suspect that gas or vapors are present, take shallow breaths through a cloth or towel. If you have a cell phone, contact 9-1-1 to advise them of your situation.

What actions should I take if told to evacuate my home?

In some situations evacuation is the only protective action available to protect the public, if time permits. If you are advised to evacuate, first consider going to the homes of relatives or friends, or checking into a hotel or motel outside the danger area. If these locations are not feasible then you will need to go to a shelter site, but remember that there are limited shelter sites for pets to be brought in due to health, safety and space reasons. If going to a shelter you should contact your veterinarian for animal boarding or contact the Ashe County Emergency Management Office at 336.846.5521 for directions on where you can take your pet.

If instructed to evacuate:

  • Stay calm – don’t panic.
  • Take only essential emergency supplies with you.
  • Do not go to pick up children at school. They will be taken care of at school or taken to a shelter outside the affected area. Listen to local radio or TV stations, they will have information on where to pick up your children and shelter locations.
  • Unless you are planning to stay with friends or family, leave your pets and farm animals at home. Be sure to put out plenty of water and food for your animals before you leave.
  • Turn off all lights and appliances (including the hot water heater) with the exception of the refrigerator and freezer.
  • Secure windows and doors and tie a white cloth or white towel to your front door as an indicator that you have evacuated (this will save emergency responders time when searching for victims or fatalities).
  • Follow the recommended routes, do not take shortcuts.
  • Notify a family contact person of your location.
  • Stay tuned to your local radio stations for updates.
  • Do not return home until advised to do so.

What if someone needs special assistance to evacuate their home due to medical problems or physical disabilities, and where would they go?

The Ashe County Emergency Management Office has developed a computerized registry of people with special needs who may require special assistance in the event of a disaster, such as a tornado, severe storm, or chemical spill. This is a voluntary registration and the information submitted will be used by emergency personnel to assure the safety of those with special needs in the event of an emergency or disaster. If you, a member of your family or a neighbor may require special assistance in an evacuation, you should contact the Ashe County Emergency Management Office at 336. 846.5522 and request a “Special Needs Voluntary Registration Form”. When your completed questionnaire is received, someone from Emergency Management will contact you to discuss your needs and to offer some instructions on what you can do to be better prepared.

What should I do if told to “Shelter in Place”?

In certain situations when an emergency occurs so quickly that there is insufficient time to evacuate, or an evacuation would actually place more people in danger, it is necessary to “Shelter in Place”. If this should occur, immediately go inside your home or the nearest structure (if you are at work or away from you home), if you have a pet get it inside too, and do the following:

  • Secure all doors and windows (if tape is available, tape cracks for extra protection).
  • Shut off all air conditioners, window fans or other equipment with air intakes.
  • Cover food and put uncovered food in the refrigerator.
  • Move to a center room or central area of the structure (keep water and emergency supplies with you).
  • Keep your TV or radio on and turned onto the Emergency Broadcasting Station (or local stations).
  • Do not use the telephone except for an extreme emergency.
  • Do not leave your home (or the structure) until you are told it is safe to do so.
  • If you’re in an automobile, roll the windows up, close all vents, turn off the fan and leave the area immediately.

What actions should I take in the event of a tornado?

A number of people have asked that question, since tornadoes are so unpredictable, even with state of the art Doppler radar and modern forecasting techniques. There are some precautions individuals can take. A good first step to take is to learn the difference between a Tornado Watch and Tornado Warning. A Tornado Watch means that weather conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop. When a Tornado Watch is issued, you should start taking actions to protect yourself, your family and property. Some of the precautions include being alert of changes in the weather, keep your car and house keys with you, move lawn furniture and yard equipment inside if possible, make sure your Disaster Supply Kit is complete in the event you have to evacuate, go over your emergency plan with family members, be sure to keep your radio or television tuned to weather reports and if there are indications that a tornado may be approaching, take cover immediately, don’t wait for a warning to be issued.

A Tornado Warning means that a tornado has actually been sighted. There is only one thing you have time to do and that is to seek shelter immediately. If you are at home, go to your basement. If your home does not have a basement, go to a small room such as a bathroom or closet in the middle of the house. If you are in a mobile home or automobile, get out and find a safe shelter, or lie down in a low area with your hands covering the back of your head and neck. Be sure to stay away from outside walls and windows. If you are at work or school, go to the designated shelter areas and stay out of large open areas like auditoriums and gymnasiums. Remain in your shelter until the storm is over!

A list of recommended items needed for your Disaster Supply Kit can be found under “What type supplies should I keep on hand for emergency situations?”. If you would like additional “FREE” information on precautions to take for severe storms or tornadoes, just call the Ashe County Emergency Management Office at 336.846.5521.

There is water running over my bridge, is it safe to cross?

No. During flood events the majority of deaths occur when individuals attempt to cross water in vehicles.

What type supplies should I keep on hand for emergency situations?

The Ashe County Emergency Management Office recommends that citizens keep enough supplies at home to meet family needs for at least 72 hours, since it may take that long before outside assistance is available from the state or federal government. Home disaster supply kits should be made up from sturdy and easy to carry containers such as backpacks, duffel bags or large trash containers in the event that you may have to evacuate and take your emergency supplies with you. These emergency supply kits should contain a number of things including the following:

  • Three day supply of water (1 gallon per person, per day)
  • A three-day supply of non-perishable, packaged or canned food.
  • One change of clothing for each member of the family.
  • Rain gear or coats depending on the time of year.
  • Blankets or sleeping bags for each member of the family.
  • A battery powered radio with extra batteries.
  • Two flashlights with batteries.
  • Emergency candles and matches.
  • Sanitation supplies (toilet paper, handy wipes, etc.).
  • A first aid kit and any prescription medications needed.
  • Extra pair of prescription glasses.
  • Special care items for infants, elderly or disabled family members (medications, formula etc..).
  • Small writing tablet with two or three pencils.
  • Manual can and bottle opener.
  • Pocketknife or multi-purpose type tool.
  • Recommend $50 to $100 money in cash, since electronic teller machines may not be working due to power outages.
  • Reading materials or games to help pass the time.

Also see the Disaster Preparedness Links page for more information.

How will I be notified of an emergency situation other than by firefighters and rescue squad personnel?

Emergency responders will do their best to notify individuals if an evacuation is needed, but if there is a large area effected it may not be possible, in which case we will use our Everbridge telephone system and Emergency Broadcast Stations (EBS) will be activated to warn citizens. The EBS are designated local radio (WKSK) and TV stations that will broadcast emergency information. They will tell you everything you need to know, where shelters are being opened, where you need to go, what roads you should use and other safety measures you can take.

Can my pet be brought to the shelter with me?

Yes, Pets are allowed to stay in certain designated pet friendly shelters or for other shelters, arrangements can be made to house it at the local animal shelter or other approved boarding facility. If possible though, you should make arrangements with local friend, family or boarding facilities to keep your pet in the event of an evacuation.

Where can I get food and/or water?

You should have enough food and water on hand for your family for 72-hours as part of your preparedness. When disasters last longer, disaster control authorities will be bringing in water and setting up food stations. People in the affected areas will be informed as to the location of these two distribution places.

What is the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC)?

The Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) is made up of representatives from agencies with diverse responsibilities in the community, including health, fire, industry, media, members of the public, and public safety. Since the committee represents every component of the community, it’s major role is to assure that the community has effective plans to deal with hazardous chemical emergencies and to establish subcommittees to address resource capabilities, emergency multi-hazard planning and other emergency related specific tasks.

Ashe County Local Emergency Planning Committee Officers:

  • Patty Gambill, Chairperson
  • Robert Poe, Vice-chairperson

For information concerning the Hazardous Chemicals Right to Know Act, chemical planning programs or SARA III reporting requirements, you may contact the Ashe County Emergency Management Office at the following:
Phone: 336.846-5521
Fax number: 336.846.5523

How do I find out what the road conditions are?

Listen to the local media, or for information on current road & travel conditions call:

  • North Carolina 1.252.549.5100 ext 7623 or visit the NCDOT website
  • Virginia 1.800.367.7623

DO NOT CALL 911 for road conditions – 911 is for EMERGENCIES ONLY.

How long will my frozen food last during a power outage?

This depends on the type freezer you have (whether upright or chest type). Most freezers if not opened will keep food 24 to 72 hours. Frozen food that thaws can be cooked then refrozen.

How do I find out if my house is located in a flood zone?

Copies of FEMA’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps are at the Emergency Management Office and the Planning Office at 150 Government Circle Suite 2400 in Jefferson; 336.846.5521. In addition, Internet users can access this information through the NC Floodplain Mapping website.

If Public Shelters are opened, how do I find out where they are, when to go and what to take with me?

If public shelters are opened, or planned to be opened, the information will be put out by the media with details regarding when to go, where to go, if transportation will be provided to get there, which ones are pet-friendly and information on what to bring with you (i.e. sleeping bag, your medications, change of clothes, etc.)

If I am deaf or have special medical needs, do I go to a regular public shelter?

Persons with impairments who are self-sufficient and capable of performing activities of daily living without assistance would go to a general public shelter. Those with special needs that would require assistance with medical care or personal care would be sheltered in a Special Needs Shelter. If public shelters are opened, information on Special Needs Shelters will be made available to the media.

What are the SARA and NC Right-to-Know reporting requirements for Ashe County?

The minimum requirements state that having at least 55 gallons or 500 pounds of any hazardous material on site requires reporting. Extremely Hazardous Substances (EHS) fall under the federal guidelines for Threshold Planning Quantities (TPQ) of the Superfund Amendment and Reauthorization Act (SARA).

Who is required to report under SARA?

Federal Superfund and Reauthorization Act (SARA) and state laws require facilities that manufacture, store, or use hazardous materials to report to the State Emergency Response Commission, the Local Emergency Response Commission and the local fire department if 55 gallons or 500 pounds of any hazardous material requiring a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is present on-site. However, if the chemical is considered by the EPA to be an Extremely Hazardous Substance (EHS), the reportable quantity falls to the Threshold Planning Quantity (TPQ) for each chemical, which may be lower. Also exceeding the TPQ of certain Extremely Hazardous Materials may require further actions of the facility operators.

I would like to help make a difference. How can I volunteer my time to assist the Ashe County Emergency Management Office?

The Emergency Management Office needs and appreciates those individuals who are willing to give their time and energy to assist the agency. There are many ways in which a person may assist ranging from serving on a committee to assisting office staff and educating the public. Please contact the Emergency Management Coordinator at 336.846.5521.