Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2015 Vol. 62 No. 4

TDEM Recovery and Mitigation Field Staff

Did you know that TDEM had a satellite office in Houston?  Most folks are familiar with the response field employees, but do not realize that Recovery, Mitigation and Standards have had staff located in the Houston area since 2001.

The southeast section of Texas along the upper Gulf Coast has the unique combination of being the most populated portion of the state and the one most prone to disaster declarations. This area has some of the busiest ports in the U.S. and is chock-full of a wide variety of industry and manufacturing, an assortment of colleges and universities and is home to iconic sites such as NASA and the Texas Medical Center.

Flooding from Tropical Storm Allison

Flooding from Tropical Storm Allison in Houston Texas, June 9, 2001 Buffalo Bayou, White Oak Bayou Confluence and Main St.
- 06/09/01. NOAA Photo Library.

It was the last of these, the Texas Medical Center, that was hardest hit by Tropical Storm (TS) Allison in the summer of 2001. It was apparent to TDEM management at the time that the recovery from TS Allison would be a long process and brought up the question of whether it was a good idea to establish a permanent office for staff in this section of the state. They decided that it was.

As with most disasters at the time, a joint field office (JFO) with TDEM and FEMA staff was setup in Houston in the aftermath of TS Allison and was located in the Greenspoint Mall. TDEM assigned staff and began hiring temporary staff to help with the disaster recovery and mitigation grant programs. Additional space for FEMA and TDEM JFO staff working TS Allison was also secured in the Mickey Leland Office building near downtown.

Eventually, there were 23 TDEM staff assigned as part of the TS Allison recovery and mitigation teams in Houston and, after another move or two, the staff settled in to the current location in the Elias Ramirez State Office Building on Polk Street south of downtown. A satellite office was also established in 2004 in Galveston County for program audit staff.

The Elias Ramirez State Office Building on Polk Street

The Elias Ramirez State Office Building on Polk Street in Houston, Texas was originally built in 1942 to house the Hughes Tool Co. and is great example of the Art Deco style. It is currently used as a state office building and house the staff from TDEM

Many of the original temporary positions eventually became permanent TDEM staff. Two of those original temporary staff are still working in the Houston office, Doug Rowell and Shirley Mayes.

There have been many changes over the years. The program audit staff were merged into the recovery and mitigation teams in 2012. The Galveston County office subsequently moved to the DPS facility in Webster.

The number of positions in the Houston area has ebbed and flowed as needs have changed. Currently, there are two five-person teams in the Polk Street office; one recovery and one mitigation team. There is also one five-person recovery team in the Webster office. The staff is supervised by a Recovery Grant Administrator and a Houston Section Administrator.

Images of the path of destruction in Sabine Pass, Texas

Images of the path of destruction in Sabine Pass, Texas, left in the wake of Hurricane Rita in 2005. NOAA Photo Library

The Houston office may have started with TS Allison, but the staff have also worked on many subsequent disasters such as the 2002 San Antonio floods, the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia Recovery, 2005 Hurricane Katrina Evacuations, 2005 Hurricane Rita, 2008 Hurricane Ike and many others. Recovery staff is currently focused on completing projects for Hurricane Ike and mitigation staff are working projects across several open disasters.

Winnie, Texas,  September 18, 2008

Winnie, Texas, September 18, 2008. Workers clearing debris from a shopping center that lost its roof during Hurricane Ike. High winds and rain left countless numbers of buildings damaged or destroyed along the South Texas coast.
Mike Moore/FEMA.

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