The state of Texas has been working with TEEX to prepare for an active 2010 hurricane season that forecasters say could spawn 8-14 hurricanes. A series of planning meetings, tabletop exercises and rehearsal of concept (ROC) drills culminated in two full-scale functional exercises in the Houston-Galveston and Lake Sabine hurricane areas and the regions that shelter their evacuees – completed before June 1, the official beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season.
TEEX has coordinated the Texas Hurricane Exercise Program for six years, and works closely with the coastal regions and inland sheltering jurisdictions on preparation activities and exercises. TEEX’s National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center (NERRTC) designs, develops and delivers the annual statewide hurricane exercises for the Texas Division of Emergency Management.
The 2010 full-scale exercises included approximately 1,000 participants from the two regions and the sheltering jurisdictions. Six regional councils were involved in the exercises and 42 hurricane exercise “nodes,” which included multiple jurisdictions.
The goal of the two-and-a-half-day exercises was to provide responders and officials experience in activating an emergency operations center, notifying appropriate authorities and the public, staffing and managing the EOC, requesting resources, and coordinating with other local, state and federal agencies for hurricane response and recovery activities, said Chuck Klafka, who coordinated the Lake Sabine exercise.
Each exercise included a scenario involving a Category 3 hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast with a storm surge leading to large-scale evacuations of coastal counties, sending large numbers of evacuees to inland shelters. Along with the Dallas area and North Central Texas, a sheltering jurisdiction participating was the Huntsville/Walker County region, which conducted a full-scale shelter exercise at the Walker County Storm Shelter. Thirty high school student volunteers role-played several scenarios, including a busload of evacuees with various special needs and pets that arrive unexpectedly at the shelter.
One of the highlights of the 2010 exercises was hands-on experience with the statewide WebEOC software in conjunction with the State Operations Center, a first for the hurricane exercise, according to Amy Raines, who coordinated the Houston-Galveston exercise. “The jurisdictions could log into their actual WebEOC accounts and subscribe to the event, which allowed them to view the Significant Event logs, submit and track resource requests, track tasks and report events and status. This provided all organizations an opportunity to identify and fix numerous issues during the exercise. Additional items will be addressed prior to future events. This was a very successful first endeavor.”
Besides Office of Emergency Management personnel, Disaster District Committees, police and fire departments, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Military Forces, Catastrophic Medical Operations Center, and Sheriff’s Offices, other participants included county judges, district clerks, hospitals, EMS and public health personnel, D/FW Airport, Red Cross, United Way, Save the Children, Salvation Army, and Texas Baptist Men, among others.
In addition to Raines and Klafka, the two full-scale exercises were conducted with the assistance of Dave Lamb and Jennifer Cutler of NERRTC, six additional NERRTC employees and 30 exercise observer-controllers.