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Drills help Texas prepare for 2009 hurricane season

5/18/2009 12:00 AM

With the help of TEEX, the coastal regions of Texas have been rehearsing and evaluating their hurricane plans in preparation for the 2009 hurricane season, which officially begins June 1. Working closely with the coastal regions, inland sheltering jurisdictions are also working to improve their ability to receive and shelter evacuees from the coast. TEEX will conclude a series of "Rehearsal of Concept" (ROC) drills for each of the five coastal regions of the state by mid-June.

TEEX's National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center (NERRTC) is the state's designated exercise provider and, for the past five years, has designed, developed and delivered the annual statewide hurricane exercises for the Governor's Division of Emergency Management (GDEM).

In addition to the regional ROC drills, TEEX is also conducting two state-level ROC drills involving state agencies, federal and private sector partners. These drills enable the state to refine plans for support of jurisdictional response plans as well as its plans for executing the state role of evacuating and sheltering special needs evacuees, said NERRTC Training Director Jim Sachtleben, who has worked on the state hurricane exercises since 2005. The ROC drills are part of this year's statewide hurricane exercise program, dubbed HUREX 2009.

The 16-hour regional ROC drills have been held at TEEX's Emergency Operations Training Center in College Station, with participants from the five Hurricane Evacuation Study Areas along the Texas coast: Houston-Galveston, Lower Rio Grande Valley, Lake Sabine, Coastal Bend and Matagorda. GDEM Chief Jack Colley has emphasized the importance of the drills in his remarks to each group of participants.

The ROC drills provided participants the opportunity to refine key components of each region's plans prior to the 2009 hurricane season, said Doug Jackson, NERRTC Training Manager. Each drill has included participants from county and city jurisdictions, state and federal agencies, fire service, law enforcement, emergency management, public health organizations, Texas Military Forces, Texas Task Force 1, private sector voluntary organizations and more.

Activities centered on coordination and control, evacuation, sheltering, search and rescue, and re-entry. NERRTC facilitators guided the groups as participants walked through their respective plans and identified essential communications, disconnects or conflicts, resource shortfalls, and then developed key process flow charts or identified other challenging issues, Jackson said. Participants then discussed these issues and shared ideas in a collaborative environment which helped identify solutions.

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