North Carolina sending teams of emergency responders to help Florida recover from Ian

Steve Helber/AP

Two teams of emergency managers and responders from North Carolina will soon leave for Florida, where they’ll assist in recovery efforts in the county where the center of Hurricane Ian came ashore last week.

The state Division of Emergency Management is putting together two “incident management” teams of about eight people each to send to Lee County, which includes Fort Myers, Sanibel Island and other communities hit hard by the hurricane. About half of the more than 100 people known to have died in the storm so far were in Lee County.

The teams will be composed primarily of emergency managers and responders from counties and local fire and EMS departments across the state, said Keith Acree, spokesman for the Division of Emergency Management. Acree himself will be going to Tallahassee to help with Florida’s communications efforts.

The Lee County teams will primarily help with planning and directing cleanup and recovery efforts in a particular area, Acree said.

“We’re not sending search-and-rescue teams down,” he said. “The incident management team is much more involved in the coordination and management side.”

The teams were planning to leave as early as Wednesday morning and likely stay about two weeks.

As Hurricane Ian headed toward the Carolinas last week, Gov. Roy Cooper said the state would send help to Florida once the storm had passed and it was clear North Carolina didn’t need the resources at home. Ian moved through the state on Friday, bringing down trees and power lines but causing only minor flooding and little damage to buildings.

Florida asked for help through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a mutual aid system created by Congress that includes all 50 states. The compact allows states to provide people, equipment and materials to help others respond and recover from natural disasters or other emergencies.

North Carolina has sent aid to other states through the compact before and has also received it.

“We had a lot of help from other states after Hurricanes Matthew and Florence,” Acree said.

Before the storm hit, Acree said, North Carolina sent a communications expert to help the Florida state emergency operations center. That person has returned home and was replaced by another from North Carolina, he said.

N.C. Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette also reached out to his counterparts in Florida to offer help before the storm, said spokesman Jamie Kritzer. So far, NCDOT has not sent any people or equipment to Florida.