Texas Emergency Management Assistance Team (TEMAT) Response to Hurricane Harvey
By Russell Marshall
Hurricane Harvey made landfall on August 25, 2017 at 10:00 p.m. as a Category 4 Hurricane. Over the next several days, Harvey would eventually transition to a tropical storm, continuing to release an unprecedented amount of rainfall on south and southeast Texas. As a result, Texas received a Presidential Disaster Declaration for 53 Counties and a Governor's Disaster Proclamation for 60 Counties. An estimated 8,861,831 people were impacted by Harvey's wrath.
The Texas Emergency Management Assistance Team (TEMAT) program was initiated in 2016 as part of Governor Abbott's Texas Homeland Security 2017 – 2021 Strategic Plan. TEMAT is the forward response and recovery team for the Texas Department of Public Safety. TEMAT is deployed as a force multiplier under the direction of the Texas Division of Emergency Management in order to support local entities during catastrophic incidents or events. The program serves as a state resource with multi-disciplined, multi-talented, and highly qualified members who are subject matter experts in the various phases of emergency management. The response teams are recruited from various disciplines at the local level, and coordinated with other State agencies.
Additionally, the Public Works Response Team (PWRT) was brought under the TEMAT umbrella in June 2017. Similar to TEMAT, PWRT personnel are subject matter experts that address problems with electrical services, gas, water, wastewater, storm water, debris clearance, structural safety, transportation systems, traffic engineering, and fleet services.
Through no fault of their own, the majority of the counties impacted by Harvey had limited emergency management staff or resources to repair affected public works systems. Multiple requests for TEMAT personnel and PWRT personnel were processed at the State Operations Center (SOC) during Harvey and well into October 2017. Sixty TEMAT personnel were deployed to sixteen different emergency operations centers and/or disaster district (DDC) locations across Texas. The destructive forces of Harvey disrupted forty wastewater facilities and sixty-one public water systems, making them inoperable. Consequently, the SOC deployed one hundred eighty-eight PWRT personnel to twenty-eight locations.
While TEMAT and PWRT were actively involved in the response and transition phases, TEMAT's importance and relevance was validated in the shared responsibilities of active recovery initiatives. Lessons learned over the years have demonstrated the need to have recovery efforts established early on in the wake of a disaster. TEMAT personnel assisted local jurisdictions with documentation, understanding eligible expenses, and information about competitive bidding processes and management of debris.
The After-Action Review of TEMAT's response to Hurricane Harvey was held in early December during a two-day session. Lessons learned were numerous and will be utilized to develop and enhance the TEMAT program. The success of the program rests with the TEMAT personnel who deployed. After all, it's about Texans helping fellow Texans, and that's just what they did.