Galveston Best Practice: Integrating county, city and surrounding area transportation & evacuation planning
AD | 02.13.2007 | 12:00:25 | Views: 1975 | ID:
Hurricane preparedness is a year-round activity in Galveston County, and for good reason: coastal counties cannot wait for a catastrophic hurricane to strike before developing and exercising their plans. Galveston County has made emergency management a top priority. The county and municipalities work very closely together to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters, and it is this cooperative spirit that enabled our successful countywide evacuation when Hurricane Rita threatened the Upper Texas Gulf Coast in September 2005.
In that evacuation, many of our residents experienced transportation and sheltering issues beyond Galveston County's borders in part because the region had not prepared for such a large-scale evacuation. Since then many "lessons learned" have been adopted into regional and state plans, including the importance of phased evacuations and the need for extra fuel supplies along the evacuation routes. Perhaps most important, parochial interests are fading and communication is improving across county lines to ensure our emergency response efforts mesh, from Galveston Island to the safe shelters inland.
Even as regional and state plans for major hurricanes are enhanced, Galveston County's preparedness program must continue to make incremental improvements. With a mandatory evacuation law now on the books in Texas, emergency planners at the local level must work tirelessly to identify vulnerable and special-needs populations that need assistance evacuating. We also must continue to develop written agreements with public and private entities that can bring resources and personnel to the table when they are needed most.
It is also important that we do a good job of managing expectations. Even under the best of circumstances, an evacuation of the Houston-Galveston area will result in some unexpected outcomes. If our citizens have realistic expectations, we can more effectively manage the fear and panic the next time a major storm threatens the Upper Texas Coast.
Hon. James D. Yarbrough
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