The North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Programs division is responsible for protecting people and agricultural industry across North Carolina from a wide range of threats. From natural disasters and nuclear incidents all the way to inspecting animals at the NC State Fair, the division in integral to the Agriculture Department’s role in public safety.
Recently, Emergency Programs has had a series of new hires in several important positions. Here is a bit more information about some of the people working to keep our state safe.
Christopher “Mike” Prevatte is the NCDA&CS Central Region EP Specialist. Within the central part of the state, Prevatte is responsible for working with various local partners to make sure that they and the communities they serve are prepared in case of an emergency.
“Within my assigned area I do a lot of networking. I network with county partners anywhere from agriculture partners, industry partners, I reach out to county public health and emergency management departments,” he said. “At the end of the day, my responsibility is to keep agriculture protected, and if something does go down to make sure we get it back online as quickly as possible.”
Prevatte started his job in August 2020 after a 15-year career as an EMS paramedic. During his time in that field, he partnered with NCDA&CS Emergency Programs department on a regular basis, and eventually toured the department’s offices in downtown Raleigh. Having grown up on a farm in Duplin County, Prevatte said that he was immediately interested in the division.
“I thought to myself, this is really cool. I thought that if anything ever came open, I needed to check this place out,” he said.
Soon enough, he got his chance. Prevatte said that his EMS work taught him valuable skills that he can put to use in his new position.
“Working in EMS, you learn a lot about incident management. How can I best manage an incident with the resources I have?” he said. “A lot of that is just staying cool, calm and collected. If you go into an emergency and you’re excited and not knowing what to do, it’s certainly not going to help the situation.”
While starting during the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly put Prevatte off to an unconventional start, he has still found plenty to enjoy about his new work.
“I love getting to do something different every single day, it is my favorite thing,” he said. “Today I went out to help with testing some of our equipment, tomorrow I’m in a safety meeting. I get to get out and meet people – to a point – I get to travel around to the counties and meet new people. And the people that work for EP, the knowledge they have is incredible.”
Kelly Nilsson is the EP division’s Disaster Recovery Coordinator. Her work will center around helping people in the agricultural community recover after disasters, while also strengthening local response capabilities.
“Much of my position will focus on working with other agencies to help bring that support and those resources to the community,” she said. “I’ll also coordinate the agriculture department’s efforts to help our community recover and become more resilient after a disaster.”
“Resilience” is an important word to remember when discussing Nilsson’s job. Helping communities get access to vital resources after a disaster is important work, but perhaps even more important is helping those communities develop better disaster preparedness to reduce the initial impact of such an incident and speed up response times afterward.
“Our hope is to be able to connect the agriculture community not only with programs to support their recovery but also programs and initiatives that help them mitigate future loss and build that resiliency,” she said.
Born and raised in upstate New York, Nilsson came to the NCDA&CS after serving as the Director of Emergency Programs at Georgia Southern University. Nilsson also previously worked as the Agency Emergency Programs coordinator for the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
That wealth of experience will be valuable for Nilsson as she settles into her position here in North Carolina. She and her family moved to North Carolina to support Nilsson’s husband during a medical procedure at Duke hospital, and Nilsson soon found the opening with EP that fit her previous experience. Nilsson has only been on the job around a month, and she said she is looking forward to digging into her new responsibilities despite the challenges that COVID-19 presents.
“I am extremely grateful to have this opportunity. North Carolina’s emergency programs division is well-respected around the country, and so having the opportunity to come and work here is very exciting for me,” she said. “North Carolina is really a model for other states, having a program like this and bringing all the unique skill sets together that it does. I came from New York, and ten years ago we were looking at North Carolina as the mover and shaker.”
While her new job is something of a blank slate given how recently she joined the division, Nilsson said she hopes to help keep EP involved in all stages of the disaster recovery process.
“My hope is that I can help Emergency Programs to support the agriculture community throughout all phases of emergencies and disasters from preparedness all the way through recovery, to complete that cycle,” she said. “If there are resources available to communities, we want to make sure they are getting access to those resources whenever possible.”
Christian Vose serves as the EP division’s Information Support Services director, heading a team responsible for managing databases and web applications which help divisions throughout the entire NCDA&CS interact with and make use of their data.
“A lot of what we do has a geospacial element to it, so we work with GIS and mapping to show locations within an application that the user can click on and obtain more information,” Vose said. “The topics covered in those vary greatly between all the divisions. There are some for the Forest Service, some for the Vet division, some for Standards. We’re building an enterprise way for users to interact with their data.”
Vose’s duties also include emergency mapping services during potentially dangerous incidents such as severe weather, animal infection outbreaks and other disasters which impact the agricultural community. He previously put those skills to use as a Geospacial Services branch head for the North Carolina Forest Service, which he described as a smaller-scale version of what he is doing now.
“It made for a pretty easy transition for me,” he said. “It was a great opportunity for growth while also continuing to help the citizens of North Carolina. It let me branch further into application development, leading that process of getting enterprise systems up and running to help people do their jobs better and serve the people of North Carolina better.”
A native of Franklin in western N.C., Vose said that one area where his new job differs from his old position is in the amount of work that he does with other divisions – something that he has quickly come to appreciate.
“At my last job I was kind of off in my own division. Now one day I’ll be working with somebody from Farmland Preservation, and then the next day I’m with someone from Plant Industry, and then after that someone from Standards,” he said. “A lot of names that I’d heard around; I’m not physically seeing them, but I’m on the phone with them and on Microsoft Teams with them, a lot of interaction. That’s been nice.”
Vose’s focus going forward will be to do all he can to keep the department’s technological capabilities as modern as he can.
“The thing is, technology is always exponentially increasing,” he said. “We need to be looking at some of our older applications and some of our older stuff and bringing them along and pushing them toward new technology. It’s all to make sure that the Department of Agriculture’s GIS and enterprise data is as cutting edge as possible. There are financial challenges, capacity challenges and time challenges, but to bring that along so we can all be proud of it, that is a goal to always keep pursuing.”
From two sides of the state and beyond, the NCDA&CS Emergency Programs division brings together experts from diverse backgrounds and skillsets to keep North Carolina’s agriculture community safe. Whether it’s flooding caused by a hurricane, mass mortality caused by animal diseases or making sure that companion animals are taken care of during times of crisis, EP has the expertise to make sure these jobs and many more get done right. To learn more about EP, visit www.ncagr.gov/oep/.