|Texas Governor Rick Perry visits with Senior Master Sgt. Jonathan Karlin of Joint Force Headquarters J6, Friday, June 1, 2012 during the Texas Department of Emergency Management State Response Activation Exercise at the South Terminal of Austin Bergstrom International Airport. The Texas Military Forces was just one of the many state agencies and partners showcasing their capabilities to the Governor and other statewide leaders in preparation of the 2012 Hurricane Season.
Story by Laura Lopez
AUSTIN, Texas - As the official first day of the Atlantic Hurricane Season kicked off on Friday, June 1, 2012, members of the Texas Military Forces participated in the Texas Division of Emergency Management State Response Activation Exercise and Showcase at the South Terminal of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Austin, Texas.
“This is critical. A lot of the state agencies don’t often get a chance to work together,” said Lt. Col. Peyton Randolph, Operations Officers, 2nd Reg., Texas State Guard. “You’ll see on the terminal ramp they are all integrating their communication and emergency operations and actually getting to know each other and work together before the emergency happens.”
An exercise designed to increase public awareness, identify agency capabilities and assets, improve resource and interagency familiarization, as well as identify space utilization for base camp operations, Texas Governor Rick Perry joined Chief Nim Kidd, Assistant Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety and Chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management for a tour and briefing of the various agencies and equipment. With Perry proclaiming May 27- June 2, 2012 as Hurricane Preparedness Week in Texas, it was during his speech that he encouraged all Texans to prepare for an emergency or disaster.
“We are blessed to be coming off a relatively quiet hurricane season,” said Perry “[However], we know that its not a matter of if another major hurricane is going to hit us, it’s a matter of when.”
Members of the Texas State Guard viewed the exercise as an opportunity to employ the Texas Emergency Tracking Network; a State-directed evacuee and resource tracking system for emergency response operations that uses Radio Frequency Identification. Through the use of bar-coded wristbands and tags, the State Guard can monitor evacuees and his or her belongings from the time of their enrollment at transportation hubs through their sheltering and the return home, helping to keep families together and easily reconnect if separated.
“It’s exercises like this that allow us to be able to handle what is going to be thrown in our path, whether it be a natural disaster or a man-made disaster,” said Kidd.
A common fixture in the skies, throughout the state, during the massive wildfire season of 2011, the Texas Army National Guard displayed a variety of different helicopters that included the UH-60 Black Hawk, CH-47 Chinook and UH-72 Lakota. Other equipment and personnel partaking in the showcase allowed the Army National Guard to highlight some of its communications capabilities and other specialized emergency resources.
One of eight C-130 Hercules aircraft owned by the Texas Air National Guard was on display at the showcase and has worked over 110 hurricane support missions coordinating movement of over 540 tons of cargo and over 870 passengers since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“Having the ability to move patients and ambulatory individuals very quickly can only be done by those aircraft [referring to the C-130 Hercules in his background] and having them right here in the state of Texas, which is where the vast majority of naturals disasters with broad impact, like a hurricane, are going to be is crucial,” said Perry.
As Perry took the time to personally thank many of those emergency responders often in harms way, those hosting the exercise added that in the past five months there has been a State Operations Center exercise (not at the center), four regional hurricane workshops, a DPS and TxDot staged a full-scale exercise to contraflow I-37 stressing that a successful response is a three-legged stool.
“It has to be a first responder, a group of local emergency responders dedicated to making good decisions; it has to a media that gets that message to the public and it has to be a public that will trust the media and trust the elected and first responders,” said Kidd.
Representatives from the American Red Cross, Texas Forest Service, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Animal Health Commission, Public Works Response Team, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas Engineering Extension Service, Texas Department of Transportation, Texas Task Force 1, the Salvation Army, the Civil Air Patrol and the Veterinary Emergency Team also participated in the exercise on June 1.
The 2012 hurricane season officially runs from June 1- Nov. 30, 2012. For more information about disaster preparedness, visit the Texas Prepares website at www.texasprepares.org.