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Lava flows and emergency plans were the topic of discussion on Wednesday afternoon at the Elizabethtown Rotary Club. Bladen County Emergency Management Director Bradley Kinlaw spoke about his time spent in Hawaii with the NC Incident Management Team assisting Hawaiian officials.

Kinlaw said the team consisted of ten members and deployed in late May to assist Hawaii’s state emergency management personnel as they dealt with lava flow issues from the eruption of the Kilauea volcano. The team was there for two weeks. Kinlaw said some of the things that his team assisted with included organizing the response, helping with the development of evacuation plans, and assisting the local emergency manager. The team worked from various locations depending on their assignment for each day.

Kinlaw said there are two main roads on the island and one road was closed due to the lava flow and the other road had large fissures forming in it. He said the cracks or fissures were repaired with metal sheets.

He described the eruption as being very different from what is depicted in books where a volcanic eruption will feature lava flowing from the top of the volcano. Kinlaw said in this eruption lava was not flowing from the top of the volcano. Instead, a fissure will open up in the earth and the lava begins to flow from it.

Kinlaw said one of the more interesting things that ocurred during the deployment was the flooding which took place in the McDowell County, NC. He said McDowell County’s Emergency Manager was deployed to Hawaii with the NC Incident Management Team. Kinlaw said the team assisted McDowell County from their post in Hawaii as well as continuing to assist the Hawaiian officials.

Kinlaw said lava flows from the volcano claimed one subdivision and numerous other houses as it made its way to the ocean. He said the NC team kept measurements of how far the lava was traveling and Kinlaw said he would use the information generated to create maps of the lava flow and areas that were impacted.

Kinlaw said one noticeable difference in Hawaii was the emergency shelters were not inside schools. Instead, residents who had to evacuate their homes were erecting tents at athletic fields.

Kinlaw said some things he learned during his deployment were to build relationships between departments and agencies, organize operations, shelters, have a strong public information system, create maps and evacuation plans, create daily incident operation plans, and have strong incident management.