In Case of Emergency: BCBSNC Foundation Report Shares Experiences and Lessons Learned from Local Response to Hurricane Katrina

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11 groups across North Carolina reveal best practices in emergency preparedness and response; Emergency Preparedness Grants Program supported efforts to address needs of at-risk populations during disasters; $10 billion in damage to North Carolina communities over the past 28 years due to storms

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I applaud the BCBSNC Foundation's efforts and hope other community groups and funding organizations follow their lead.

As our nation approaches the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's devastating landfall, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation (BCBSNC Foundation) reflects on our state's improvements to emergency preparedness measures, and has compiled a report to share the diverse approaches some communities and organizations are taking to ensure the safety of all North Carolinians in times of an emergency.

The report, ''In Case of Emergency,'' captures narrative accounts and findings from 11 community organizations that participated in the foundation's Emergency Preparedness Grants program. The BCBSNC Foundation launched the program in January 2006, shortly after Katrina revealed weaknesses in our nation's ability to effectively respond during a natural disaster, particularly vulnerable populations.

"By establishing the Emergency Preparedness Grants program, the BCBSNC Foundation recognized that responding to disasters is not just about providing relief - it also calls for reform of emergency management systems so they perform at optimum levels when the next situation comes. That's particularly important for the most vulnerable members of our society, who are often hit the hardest," said John Thomas Cooper Jr., Ph.D., North Carolina-based emergency preparedness expert and program director of MDC Inc. "I applaud the BCBSNC Foundation's efforts and hope other community groups and funding organizations follow their lead."

''In Case of Emergency'' narrates the grantees' first-hand experiences, successes and lessons learned in hopes of educating others who can improve emergency planning processes in their own communities.

"North Carolina is prone to severe weather, and the far-reaching effects of Hurricane Katrina continue to remind us of the fact that we must be prepared," said Kathy Higgins, president of the BCBSNC Foundation. "We hope that this report will be a resource for organizations across the state that aid in responding to the public during a disaster or emergency."

According to the National Climate Data Center, storms have left $10 billion in damage to North Carolina communities over the past 28 years. From 1980 to 2004, 40 percent of the nation's most damaging weather-related disasters impacted North Carolina - more than any other state in the country.

The BCBSNC Foundation created the Emergency Preparedness Grants Program to turn lessons learned from the aftermath of Katrina into productive and innovative preparedness efforts in our state. Shortly after announcing the program, 11 grantees were selected, collectively receiving more than $330,000.

"Our intent is that the original investment made in the grants program will be multiplied through increased community awareness. This report will be an important tool in achieving that goal," said Higgins.

BCBSNC Foundation grants supported nonprofit organizations and government agencies reaching North Carolina's most vulnerable populations - elderly, chronically-ill, low-income and immigrant populations. According to 2006 census data from the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 15 percent of North Carolinians live at or below the poverty level and 12 percent are aged 65 or older.

''In Case of Emergency'' narrates the projects implemented by BCBSNC Foundation grantees focusing on the following concerns: Overcoming Language Barriers, Addressing Special Needs Populations, and Improving Technology and Communications Systems. Participating organizations included:

  • American Red Cross, Triangle Chapter - Raleigh    
  • The Arc of Alamance County - Burlington        
  • Ashe County Office of Emergency Management - Jefferson
  • Cape Fear Council of Governments - Wilmington    
  • Community in Crisis - Clayton        
  • Jackson County Department of Public Health - Sylva
  • Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina - Raleigh
  • Interfaith Community Outreach - Kitty Hawk
  • Pamlico Information Network Enterprise - Alliance
  • Triangle J Area Agency on Aging with Triangle United Way - Durham
  • UNC-G: Center for New North Carolinians - Greensboro

The BCBSNC Foundation is distributing the report to North Carolina libraries, to agencies and organizations that serve vulnerable populations, and to government and emergency officials across the state. It is also available online at http://www.bcbsncfoundation.org .

About BCBSNC Foundation:
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation is a separate, independent, nonprofit Foundation dedicated to improving the health and well-being of North Carolinians. The Foundation's focus areas include: Health of Vulnerable Populations - improving health outcomes of populations served by safety net organizations; Healthy Active Communities - increasing physical activity and encouraging healthy eating habits; and Community Impact through Nonprofit Excellence - increasing the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations. BCBSNC Foundation invests programs and services in response to grant requests and proactively creates initiatives or partners with organizations to address specific needs. They also coordinate several Signature Programs, among them Be Active Kids® and Healthy Community Institute for Nonprofit Excellence.

Since its establishment in 2000, the BCBSNC Foundation has invested more than $34 million through 270 grants to organizations across the state. To learn more, log onto http://www.bcbsncfoundation.org .

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Valerie Egel
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