Article on 8th Regiment from The Facts

Posted with permission of The Facts

Hurricane drills test, prepare local volunteers

By BRITTANY LAMAS brittany.lamas@thefacts.com | Posted: Sunday, June 28, 2015 2:00 am

Hurricane Expo
Hurricane Expo
Karen Booren is carried by Theodore Mikeasky and Eseil Hernandez of the Texas State Guard to the medical station as part of a mass casualities drill Friday at the Lake Jackson Civic Center.

LAKE JACKSON — As Lisa Dewey reclined on a table in the Lake Jackson Civic Center with bandages on her arms and wounds on her head, Texas State Guard troops bustled around, assessing her fake injuries.

She was impressed with the team’s professionalism and seriousness.

“They’re definitely taking this serious. Some of the times I’m trying not to laugh, but they’re very good,” she said.

Dewey came by the Civic Center as a volunteer for an evacuation hub exercise and a mass-casualty drill to test emergency response procedures for the county and the Texas State Guard.

After seven years of mild storms since Hurricane Ike in 2008, drills are critical as a major storm hitting Brazoria County becomes inevitable, Assistant Emergency Management Coordinator Glenn LaMont said.

The hub was the county’s first opportunity to test new software meant to help if an evacuation is called because of a hurricane, LaMont said.

“We’re one of the first county jurisdictions to use it in a drill,” he said. “We got to see how it worked. It’s pretty simple to use, and do it quickly at the level of putting people in and getting them out.”

The county’s Community Emergency Response Teams worked with the Texas State Guard, one of the state’s three military forces deployed in emergencies, and Galveston County emergency teams to practice signing people in, designating where they would go and getting them loaded onto evacuation buses.

LaMont said 60 to 80 volunteers came by to help make the drill as realistic as possible, which is key to checking how the procedures will hold up in a storm.

Response team volunteer Tallie Taylor Fine said she will be so much more confident in her skills if a storm blows through this summer.

She and her husband signed up to be part of Lake Jackson’s response team two months ago, so they really had no idea going into Friday what all would come with a real disaster situation, Fine said.

“There were some glitches, but we got those worked out and now I know where we’d put people with dogs and people with medical needs,” she said.

“I’m a lot more prepared now.”

Texas State Guard Capt. Austin Green said the teams were able to get people through the lines at the goal speed of one every 45 seconds. It was important volunteers get used to the pace needed for real situations, Green said.

Galveston County Homeland Security Planner Michael Lambert said it was a huge benefit for some of his employees to get to work with their neighbors and run through the system.

“Our people got to work with the software in real life and we all got to work together,” he said.

After the hub, the response teams surprised Green’s Texas State Guard troops with the mass-casualty drill.

The scenario given to them was that a tornado spawned from a storm blowing through, leaving several people injured and scattered about the Civic Center.

Green said a few years ago, some of his team members were gathered in a small-town city hall when the roof was almost ripped off the building.

“This would’ve occurred for real,” he said. “That’s why we train so heavily in first aid.”

General Howard Palmer said he was excited to see the hub and disaster drill go so well and have so many volunteers. It will all be critical in a real emergency, he said.

“We get as close to real life as we can make it. These guys have a sense of urgency. It’s important to them,” he said. “To see the community and the volunteers really come out to support the training, everybody benefits.”

On Saturday, the county teams worked with Lake Jackson, Richwood, Clute and Angleton emergency response crews to run POD, point of distribution, sites as an after-the-storm practice of giving out supplies to residents.

LaMont said that kind of exercise hasn’t been tested since 2011, and even though it’s been seven years since a major disaster, the entire weekend of drills will likely come in handy sooner, rather than later.

“We got lucky with Tropical Storm Bill, but our luck can’t hold out much longer,” he said. “It’s good to have these drills for everybody, so everybody can see how it really works.”