Texas Public Works Response Team
Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) was charged with developing and implementing a Public Works Response Team (PWRT) program for emergency response within the state of Texas. In 2013, Nim Kidd, Assistant Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Chief of the Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) brought the PWRT program under the direction of TDEM. In August of 2013, TDEM brought in Darrick Hesson to coordinate the statewide team. The PWRT’s purpose is simple: “When a catastrophic event occurs and the citizens of Texas have their daily lives and local economy disrupted, an immediate and integrated public works response provides for quicker recovery of critical services and infrastructure.” The teams are made from identified public works jurisdictions and disciplines throughout the state.
Ice storms in north Texas caused widespread power outages.
The PWRT is a state asset with multi-disciplined, multi-talented, and highly qualified members that support local response, rapid damage assessment, and recovery efforts. The teams are deployed by the State Operations Center (SOC) at the request of a local jurisdiction in the event of a catastrophic event. The teams are composed of members who are highly skilled and knowledgeable in public works activities such as Utilities (Electrical, Gas, Water, Wastewater, Storm Water, Environmental Safety and Compliance, Communications); Debris Clearance; Structural; Structural Safety; Transportations Systems; Traffic Engineering and Management; Fleet Services; and Parks and Recreation. Since the teams are considered a state asset when deployed by the SOC, their expenses during that deployment are reimbursable by TDEM.
The teams are organized and function in accordance with the National Incident Management System (NIMS). The PWRT program is designed to support local jurisdictions in their initial response and recovery efforts at three levels: planning support, operational support and liaison support.
Since the program’s creation in 2008, more than 300 members have signed up to the program. However, due to retirement and employee turnover, constantly recruiting new members is vital to the programs continued success. Teams have deployed for a number of disasters including more recently; the wild fires in Bastrop and the fertilizer plant explosion in West.
TDEM is constantly searching for new agencies and jurisdictions to join the program. Anyone interested in learning more about the program can visit the DEM Public Works Response Team website or contact Darrick Hesson at (512) 424-2288.