Merit: For all the people across this region — thousands of them — who have gone above and beyond their daily responsibilities to get ready for the arrival of Hurricane Florence. What we've seen in our community is absolutely astonishing and as heartwarming as it gets. We have no doubt that these extensive preparations will save lives.

Federal, state and local officials deserve a special salute for their vigilance. They began putting a disaster response in place as soon as computer models showed a likelihood that Florence would head our way. Convoys of emergency supplies were on their way to staging points by early this week. Emergency responders began their trek here at that point too. As it became clear that we might have a flooding event on the order of Hurricane Matthew two years ago, plans were set in motion for shelters and evacuations.

Here in Cumberland County, city and county emergency response leaders set up a joint center to coordinate efforts. The county put a nighttime curfew in effect. Government, nonprofits and churches coordinated their activities to feed and shelter those who might be displaced from their homes — and to make sure the homeless have a safe, dry place to stay during the storm. At least some of the shelters were prepared to welcome both people and their pets, so no one would be forced to leave furry family members behind.

Even as flight crews were moving many of Fort Bragg's helicopters to safer keeping in Georgia (some will stay here, standing by for rescue duty), big trucks filled with supplies and equipment were streaming into a FEMA staging area on the post. National Guard soldiers and airmen across four states were put on alert and prepared to respond wherever they were needed in Florence's wake. Swift-water rescue teams and other specialized emergency responders arrived in the area so they could quickly mobilize for victims of the flash flooding that is likely to occur this weekend.

City employees worked to clear storm drains and utility crews checked their equipment and prepared to respond to the power outages that are likely to occur. And police, firefighters and emergency medical crews braced themselves for long shifts under difficult storm conditions.

It was, in short, an extraordinary effort, the beginning of what will likely be many stories of individuals and groups doing whatever needs to be done to keep residents safe. Even before Florence gives us her best — or worst — shot, we applaud all those efforts and hope for the safety of all, including the first responders  that we're proud to have as our friends and neighbors.

Demerit: This one's in advance, for all the wretched souls who will try to use our neighbors' misfortune as an opportunity to make a quick buck. We're talking about price gouging here. We haven't seen any blood-boiling examples of it yet, but we won't be surprised when it happens. What we did see was a few gas stations, as soon as it was clear that Florence was headed our way, that raised their prices by 10 to 15 cents a gallon. But many others didn't, and the ones who resisted appeared to be doing the best business. We hope it will continue to work out that way and that nobody gets really outrageous with price gouging.

But if you do see someone attempting a big ripoff, N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein wants to hear about it. As soon as Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency this week, an anti-gouging statute took effect. Trying to rip off customers during a natural disaster is illegal. You can report the gougers by filing a complaint at ncdoj.gov. Or you can get things moving faster by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.

Merit: For the Cumberland County Public Library, which is holding another in its series of job fairs Wednesday at the Headquarters Library downtown. Potential employers from many businesses and industries will be there, including representatives from local government and the military.

The job fair will also include plenty of advice for job seekers, including a session that talks about ways you can market yourself and your experience to potential employers. A resume-review workshop will help you edit and shape up your resume and another seminar will dispense good interviewing tips for job-seekers.

The library is also partnering with the Fayetteville Cumberland Reentry Council to hold a Reentry Resource Fair during the job fair. It's designed to help former offenders who are transitioning back into community life and want to do it well — including finding a job.

All eight of the library's locations offer help anytime for job hunters. Staff can help with the job search, applying for jobs online and writing resumes. It's one more reason why this county's library system has won so many awards. Take advantage of it.