Waiting to prepare is not an option in promoting a weather ready county

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — It’s been 10 months since Hurricane Florence swept through our area leaving behind destruction and devastation to many homes and businesses. The possibility of having to deal with another storm firsthand was reason enough for one family to get prepared.

“We did visit family in the area shortly after the hurricane and we saw some of the devastating effects so we wanted to try to be ready and know what to do,” Bart Merkley said.

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He and his wife, Tiffany Merkley, just moved to Wilmington two months ago and this is their first time living in a coastal community. When they heard of the New Hanover Disaster and Preparedness Expo through their church, they made it a priority to attend.

“I think one of the big things was the 72 hour kit and what kinds of things that we need to put it in it and what things to do to be prepared,” Tiffany Merkley said.

New Hanover Disaster Coalition Director Audrey Hart says the expo was intended to bridge the hurricane preparedness gap for families like the Merkleys.

“We just want to make sure everyone has the tools and the resources and knows one another,” Hart said.

Hart says providing resources for everyone also includes those with disabilities.

Christina Bauman, one of the 35 vendors, showed residents emergency tools for deaf and hard of hearing residents while they are asleep.

“If the [alerting device] activates, it will send a message for the machine to alert with a strobe light and a bed shaker,” Bauman demonstrated.

Hart says in coordinating groups to participate it was important to find resources that would satisfy everyone’s needs.

“It effects us the same,” Hart said. “The wind, rain and hail hits us the same so we wanted to make sure that we’re inclusive. It fills my heart seeing all the vendors coming together and I don’t remember who said it, but everyone is leaving their ego and logo at the door and we’re just coming together as a community.”

Bart Merkley says this information has made him more prepared in tackling this hurricane season.

“I think we’re ready to get ready now,” he said.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to apply for one of the available devices for the deaf or hard of hearing, contact your Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Regional Center. A list of centers and the counties that they serve can be found here.