Story and photos by Sgt. Chris Feriante
Texas State Guard Public Affairs
HUNTSVILLE, Texas – In preparation for the 2018 hurricane season, the 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment, Texas State Guard, partnered with local and state emergency management agencies February 24, 2018 to practice and rehearse combined operation capabilities in Huntsville.
The Texas State Guard, in coordination with Walker County Emergency Management, Texas Division of Emergency Management and Sam Houston State University Emergency Management, participated in a joint evacuation exercise to strengthen skills using the Emergency Tracking Network system. Operating the ETN is one of the Texas State Guard's mission-essential tasks.
"We are focused on this exercise as both a training opportunity for our guardsmen to use the ETN system and as an opportunity to build a strong relationship with the Walker County emergency management folks and the Huntsville community," said Lt. Col. Arthur Levesque, 2nd battalion commander.
The ETN provides a network to maintain accountability of evacuees throughout a disaster; from the time they board evacuation mass transit, to their arrival at a shelter and finally back to where they boarded the mass transit after a storm. Each evacuee is given a yellow wrist band which has an identification number unique to each individual. Family pets, as well as medical and mobility devices are also banded and can be tracked together.
With students from Sam Houston State University acting as evacuees being transported to the Walker County Emergency Shelter, 40 guardsmen from the unit registered evacuees and tracked the role player’s movements from the simulated evacuation site at the university to the shelter. To make the exercise as real as possible, both pets and medical and mobility equipment were required to be evacuated and tracked.
"The objective of our training today is to give guardsmen hands-on experience using ETN so that we are ready to provide to our fellow Texans effective assistance during an emergency or disaster," said 1st Sgt. Charles Sumner.
Walker County Judge Danny Pierce stressed the importance of training with the Texas State Guard and emergency management agencies.
“During Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, we sheltered 150,000 evacuees along the I-45 corridor within Walker County,” said Pierce. “At that time we did not have a way to track the movement of evacuees. So we lost people, and we couldn’t find them. The Texas State Guard turned out in huge numbers for this ETN exercise which raised our comfort level knowing that we have these guys behind us in an emergency.”
The Walker County Office of Emergency Management coordinated the exercise which also included the Walker County Community Emergency Response Team, the Walker County Sheriff's Department, Huntsville Independent School District, the Walker County Animal Issues Group and the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council.
The Atlantic Hurricane season begins June 1st.