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Carolina Journal: Florence revealed need for better community college emergency planning

From Carolina Journal’s Kari Travis:

The N.C. Community College System should take notes during the aftermath of Hurricane Florence and make better emergency plans for future natural disasters, system President Peter Hans says.

While the University of North Carolina System kicked into emergency mode at the storm’s onset last week, NCCCS also worked hard to evacuate and secure at-risk campuses across its 58-college system. The storm affected 18 community colleges in Eastern North Carolina.

Seven of those colleges — Brunswick, Cape Fear, Carteret, Coastal Carolina, Craven, Fayetteville Technical Community College, James Sprunt, and Pamlico — were especially damaged. They will remain closed until at least Sept. 24, Hans said.

Another 14 schools are set to reopen this week.

Community college leaders began assessing damage Sept. 17. Evaluations are slow, and it’s tough to predict costs. Once the system has tallied the price of repairs, Hans will approach state leaders about funding “so that our students can remain on track to finish their education,” he said.

Affected colleges suffered flooding, leaks, and exterior building damage, but things could have been worse, Hans told Carolina Journal.

Still, the system’s emergency protocol has holes, he said.

NCCCS’ administrative office is the technology hub for dozens of community colleges. But the tech is outdated, Hans said, causing worry during the hurricane. A cloud-computing operation would secure communications.

“We’re actually asking the General Assembly for support on a new technology system. Not because of the hurricane — but it certainly reinforces the need. If our system goes down and colleges can’t communicate, it would be a mess.”

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