Builders and Shapers: Hatteras Island Community Emergency Response Team

Builders and Shapers: Hatteras Island Community Emergency Response Team

August 1st, 2023

The challenges of living on a sandbar — in some spots less than 100 yards wide — between the Atlantic Ocean and Pamlico Sound — the world’s largest embayed estuary — can at times seem daunting to even the saltiest Hatteras Islander.

Hurricane-force winds. Flooding from the ocean. Flooding from the sound. Washed out roads. Damaged bridges. Cut power lines. Damaged fiber optic cables.

We’ve seen those forces cause simple inconveniences for a few hours, and life-threatening and life-altering situations that last for days, weeks and months.

A number of agencies and organizations on the Outer Banks step-up every time to face those challenges, including one born from one of the most damaging storms to hit Hatteras Island in a generation.

Builders and Shapers: Nonprofits of the Greater Outer Banks, our collaborative series with the Outer Banks Community Foundation and Outer Banks Visitor’s Bureau, this week features the Hatteras Island Community Emergency Response Team, led by President Kenny Brite.

Who do you serve, and how?
The Hatteras Island CERT serves the entire island. We maintain a cache of equipment and supplies to be used after a significant event. Be it weather, fire, or another type of emergency.

Our volunteers assist with the county’s response. We assist Dare County’s Department of Health and Human Services, the local volunteer fire departments, and the Cape Hatteras United Methodist Men in gathering information to help speed up the recovery.

When and why was your nonprofit created?

In 2011, the day after Hurricane Irene, the Avon community began feeding the community three meals a day. The feeding ended after 11 days.

Afterwards, the Really Really Free Market began using the same volunteers as the feeding to organize and distribute donations. After eight weeks of tremendous volunteer efforts, the Really Really Free Market transitioned from seven days a week to Saturdays.

After we ended the response, we discussed organizing an auxiliary to the Avon Volunteer Fire Department. Our discussion steered to an island-wide auxiliary instead of just Avon.

We found that HI-CERT was a good fit for our intentions. We formed in 2012 and received 501-c3 status in 2015.

What are some of the benefits of your organization’s work?
We have designed forms to capture information needed by relief organizations. We will have work orders ready when they arrive. This speeds up the relief efforts by three to four days. These groups can hit the ground running instead of performing assessments.

Our main contribution to relief is the receiving and distribution of donated supplies.

Do you think the issues you address will ever go away? Why or why not?
There will always be a threat of weather events, electrical and communications blackouts, and other emergencies to Hatteras Island that cause unique challenges due to our remoteness.

What else would you like readers to know (perhaps an interesting project or unanticipated, positive outcome)?
In the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in 2019, HI-CERT provided over 4,200 hours of volunteer service to Hatteras Island communities.

What’s new? What are your upcoming events or initiatives?
HI-CERT has recently received a grant from the Outer Banks Community Foundation to partially fund an Emergency Communication Project. We are currently building three trailers that will house satellite-based internet equipment using the Starlink service to allow WI-FI calling during a fiber outage.

If during an outage you experience an emergency, you can drive to a location in each village and dial 911. While not a perfect solution, it has potential to be a life-saving link to the Dare County Communications Center.

Each trailer will also be equipped with a HAM radio and antenna as another link to the 911 center. We’ve just been notified that funding for a fourth trailer has been pledged.

The end goal will be to have six trailers to spread the WI-FI access across the island. We have two locations on the island that will have Starlink access that will be available to the community during a fiber outage.

We are very excited to provide this back-up service to the visitors and residents of Hatteras Island.

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