We’ve heard from many within our community about a lot of recent chatter both online and amongst residents in town. As a result, I feel it’s more than appropriate to share with you directly where we’ve been and where we have come in the past several years since my administration took over emergency management operations for the City. In fact, it’s good timing, considering hurricane season is upon us.
Before I summarize the facts, please consider tuning in to tomorrow’s live-streamed event on Hurricane Season Preparedness. This event is hosted by the Aransas Pass Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the City, APISD, and the Aransas Pass Police Department/Public Safety. The event will kick-off live via the Aransas Pass Police Department’s Facebook Page
Facebook Live Event
Be a good neighbor
Are you disabled, elderly, or do you have a friend or neighbor that could use assistance during a disaster?
Get registered today via 211. We work closely with this Texas program to make sure we meet the special needs of those within our community.
Already registered? Be sure to update your info. YOU MUST RE-REGISTER ANNUALLY.
In the beginning
In February of 2015, then Captain, and now Assistant Chief Lynn Pearce was assigned to take over the City’s Emergency Management Division. On top of his administrative duties, he now wore the title of Emergency Management Coordinator over our Emergency Operations Center (EOC). At that time, our resources were limited. So, where were we in the beginning?
- Our emergency operations plans were outdated and incomplete;
- We had one contract in place which was to install sea gates in Pelican Cove;
- Surplus supplies on hand were a few rotten army cots, army tent, and two satellite phones that never really worked and were unreliable;
- Citywide, staff lacked proper and required NIMS/FEMA training;
That is about it!
Going into Hurricane Harvey
Leading up to Hurricane Harvey, many improvements were made. Still, many improvements would be needed as we’d soon learn from this experience, but it was not for lack of trying. So, where were we when Hurricane Harvey struck in 2017?
- The City was brought online with WEBEOC, a standard for large-scale incident management across Texas. It allows a direct connection to the State’s STAR system. It also provides tracking of all resources and all actions taken by the local EOC. An EOC committee comprised of City staff was established. City personnel was trained and participated in tabletop exercises prior to Harvey;
- Our state-required emergency plans and annexes were updated;
- A contract was secured with the DRC (debris removal company) company for a multitude of things but most importantly, debris removal. Do you remember all that debris out on the Shrimporee grounds after Hurricane Harvey? This is the company responsible for cleaning that all up;
- Every City employee completed at least some level of FEMA/NIMS training. This training likewise provides the employee with a working knowledge of what is taught through tabletop practical exercises;
- A 16′ Trailer was purchased to store disaster supplies that could be stored without spoiling;
- Four portable generators were purchased and used during Harvey;
- Every City department updated its 100-hour plan prior to the storm. This plan outlines what should be done starting 100-hours before the landfall of a hurricane;
- City departments began the transition from hardcopy records to cloud storage;
- Expanded the installation of storm shutters protecting City infrastructure prior to the Hurricane. (Prior to doing so, only the Civic Center had shutters);
- Established an MOU with the school to transport evacuees to Sinton;
Remember, this is where we had arrived prior to entering the Hurricane Harvey Disaster.
Coming out of Hurricane Harvey, we learned a lot. This experience helped us plan for the next several events that would come our way, such as 100 year rain events and flooding, and the recent winter storm. So, what improvements have been made since Hurricane Harvey, you ask?
- We’ve since installed generators at ground storage water tanks;
- Purchased 2-10″ pumps and 3-8″ pumps for flood water control;
- All EOC staff acquired laptops. This allows for virtual activation (Very useful during Harvey, COVID, and the Winter storm);
- CradlePoints acquired to allow for redundancy in web/phone access after poor experience realized from satellite phones and current landline systems;
- We now have greater mobile internet capacity;
- The Council Chambers and Municipal Court areas were hardened through a grant. This means they are rated to withstand a stronger storm from the Gulf and can operate independently, assuming the PD and City Hall were to be wiped out. This project included new computers, desks, chairs, whiteboards, smartboards and more;
- We installed backup internet citywide for greater redundancy due to experienced internet outages with our current carrier;
- The EOC now has AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon to ensure redundant connectivity (phone and internet). The PD/EOC has additional access to all three carriers as well;
- A radio go-box and mobile 911 station were purchased, allowing dispatch to be set up remotely anywhere in the world via internet access. (Grant money);
- We have a cache of handheld radios that can be issued if County/local radio infrastructures fail;
- Ham Radio capabilities were significantly increased, adding several more city employees with Ham Radio capabilities and experience;
- A new weather station was installed for real-time observation of local weather, and it, along with a live-time camera, was made available to the public;
- ALL city buildings now have proper storm shutters;
- Two storage containers have been purchased to store disaster supplies;
- Added two more vehicles for highwater rescue;
- Boat/Dive teams have been added and trained;
- Contract for debris monitoring services is in place;
- Agreement established with outside area location for the purposes of evacuating equipment and personnel to;
- More City departments are now paperless;
- Cots have been replaced with usable ones;
- Limited water and sustainable meals are on hand to support staff for a period of time;
- Several generators and light towers have been acquired;
- Community partnerships with non-profits have been established to help erect shelters and develop local resources that are too cumbersome for the government to focus on during a disaster;
- An Animal Control trailer was added to evac/rescue animals. It also has a usable generator if needed. (Grant money);
- Updated and improved system for localized emergency alerts. Are you signed up?
What a list! Though we feel we’ve made quite a few improvements, we know there is much more that needs to be done.
The improvements have been great and we are appreciative our our elected and appointed City leadership who have directly contributed to this progress over the past several years.
- A second City water tower would allow for much-needed redundancy and the ability to expand services;
- We have 28 lift stations that need generators. This acquisition is in the final stages of being approved and funded through FEMA;
- A storage facility for disaster supplies would increase readiness and allow for a much faster response;
- A sandbag filling machine and designated location would be helpful;
- The generator for the Civic Center is in the works;
- Hosted citywide phone solution is in the works.
These are just to note a few items that are in the works for improvements. We are constantly evolving our public safety mission here in Aransas Pass. If you have ideas or suggestions for improvements, we’d like to hear them. Feel free to give us your feedback on the form provided.