Emergency managers around the state continue the never-ending cycle of emergency preparedness planning. As hurricane season starts to wind down, jurisdictions across north and central Texas are starting to ramp up for winter weather. Even though it seems we are barely out of the triple-digit heat, snow and ice may soon be upon us, so it’s time to review winter weather preparedness plans.
A number of things can affect an emergency plan from one year to the next. Road closures or openings or changes to equipment can impact plans related to traffic patterns and route clearing. New staff may need training on the jurisdiction’s planned response to an ice-related emergency. Shifts in population could prompt the creation of additional shelters. Even changes to surrounding communities could force needed changes.
Process for Getting Prepared
In preparation for upcoming seasonal changes and possible severe weather, jurisdictions typically follow a process for getting prepared that involves reviewing appropriate emergency plan annexes, gathering and organizing resources, training to bridge knowledge gaps, conducting exercises to test the plan, and making after-exercise revisions to the plan as necessary. In emergency management circles this process is referred to as POETE (Planning, Organization, Equipment, Training, Exercises).
Texas law requires that each jurisdiction update and submit its emergency management plan to the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) for review every five years. However, because of changes in and around communities throughout the year, TDEM recommends annual reviews of these plans.
A great way to do that is in anticipation of potential seasonal emergencies. For example, in preparation for ice-related emergencies, jurisdictions would not have to review every annex, just those related to managing this specific emergency. During this review process, planners should consider how changes in and around their community over the previous year would affect the plan, such as possible changes to mutual aid agreements. Then, planners identify any knowledge gaps that might prevent successful deployment of the plan during an emergency.
Organization & Equipment
The next step in the process is to organize and equip. This refers to all resources, including personnel. When determining what will be needed during response or recovery, jurisdictions should ensure that the equipment necessary to successfully manage an assigned workload will be available and is in good working order.
Jurisdictions fill knowledge gaps identified during plan review through training. There are a number of training sources available for a wide range of topics, and many of these training sessions are conducted in the community to maximize participation. When looking for available training or to schedule training, most emergency managers in Texas start at: Preparing Texas.
To test plans after training is complete, jurisdictions design and conduct exercises, which range in various levels from tabletop to full scale. This series of exercises allows practitioners to begin developing policies and processes in an informal setting and continue through with an exercise that is as close to a real event as possible and includes all the resources that will be used in the real event.
The last step in this process is to evaluate the exercise and update the emergency plan as necessary. This should be accomplished between each type of exercise.
Through this process local jurisdictions prepare themselves for possible emergencies. The process is completed multiple times throughout the state during the year. Some communities work through this process on their own, however, TDEM’s Local and Regional Plans Unit is available for assistance when needed. For more information, please call (512) 424-5059.