Message From The Chief
Looking back over several past volumes of TEMO and the Texas Emergency Management Digest, it’s no surprise to find the same repetitive topics addressed over and over, issue after issue. Texans have a long history of coping with a fairly consistent set of natural and manmade disasters. Scrolling through years of publications, familiar-looking headlines about hurricanes; severe weather, tornados and flooding; ice and snow; wildfires and drought as well as public health issues appear on the screen.
For a long time, Texans have been preparing for, responding to, recovering from and mitigating the effects of these types disasters. The geographic location and nature of the state is perfect for creating conditions for severe weather events. The sheer size and physical nature of the state makes it possible for us to experience a wide array and severity of events. And our growing population and expanding infrastructure increase the probability and effects of manmade disaster and epidemic outbreaks.
We can’t predict everything a disaster or the changing seasons will bring. Each event presents its own unique and sometimes surprising aspects.
In 2011, conditions across Texas presented a clear and high potential for wildfire across the state. But few could have predicted that, when the last fire was finally out, over 4,000,000 acres would burn and nearly 3,000 homes would be destroyed.
In the midst of this lingering, record-breaking drought, while many communities watch their water supplies dry up, others across Texas have dealt with devastating ice and snow storms and deadly flash flooding as well.
Every year we know that there will be a potential for an influenza outbreak. In 2009 Texas was dealing with a public health emergency because of the “novel” H1N1 flu virus. West Nile became an epidemic in some parts of Texas in 2012. This year, Ebola came to Texas.
In 2007, one fairly minor Hurricane Humberto made landfall in High Island, Texas. In 2009, the Hurricane Ida caused minimal effects along the Texas Coast. In between those years in 2008, six tropical storms and hurricanes—including Ike —struck Texas. Hurricane Ike was responsible for 84 deaths and $19.3 billion in damage. The State Operations Center that year spent a total of 356 days at Level 1 activation.
As the Texas population continues to increase as it is doing, so will the potential financial, environmental and human cost of every disaster. Texans will continue to prepare for what inevitably will come, learn from what we have experienced and pass that knowledge along and perfect the skills that we will need to effectively and confidently deal with whatever comes our way.
Speaking of sounding like a broken record:
November 12, 2014 was Winter Weather Preparedness Day in Texas, and we’ve already experienced significant freezing weather. Have you taken the time to assess your winter survival kit? Winter Weather Awareness
Flu Season is here. Flu activity so far in low, but it’s expected to increase. Did you get your shot yet? Have you reminded your family and friends to get theirs?
Chief W. Nim Kidd, CEM®