'We always prepare': NC emergency director confident in hurricane readiness before retirement

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Mike Sprayberry is a retired Marine, and after more than 40 years of service to the state of North Carolina, he's about to also be a retired Emergency Management Director.

He's a guy who's definitely seen it all.

"Our storm of record in the past was Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Then is was Matthew in 2016. Then it was Florence," Sprayberry told ABC11 in a one-on-one interview inside the Emergency Operations Center. "Between 2016 and now, we've had several hurricanes--two really big ones. We've had wildfires, civil disturbances, cyberattacks, and we're just coming out of a fuel shortage."

There's also been the COVID-19 Pandemic, for which "Emergency Status" has lasted more than 450 days. Now, again, another hurricane season on the horizon.

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"The meteorologists would tell you the water in the ocean is warm. They would tell you the winds favor an active hurricane season," Sprayberry explained. "That's what we know. I know I need to be ready and the team needs to be ready to strap in and be prepared to respond aggressively and decisively whenever a hurricane makes landfall."

If and when that happens, it's the EOC's job to coordinate resources with county emergency managers. Unlike last year, personal protective equipment (PPE), social services staff, Red Cross support, and mobile medical teams are much more easily accessible.

Officials are also anticipating new guidance from FEMA about congregate and non-congregate sheltering.

"Just think of Wilmington evacuating. Where do you put everybody?"

Though plans are certainly in the works, Sprayberry added that it's imperative for families to take their own initiatives and plan ahead.

"There does have to be some personal responsibility," he emphasized. "That's the key right there to look out for yourself and your family. Some of our partners say, 'The first 72 is on you.' The first 72 hours. I think that's a good rule of thumb."

Sprayberry's steady leadership has definitely been the rule and not the exception since his 2013 appointment to Emergency Management Director by Governor Pat McCrory. His retirement is effective August 1st, after which Governor Roy Cooper will name a successor.
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