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Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2016 Vol. 63 No. 11

TEXAS EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT ASSISTANCE TEAM (TEMAT) PROGRAM

The Texas Emergency Management Assistance Team (TEMAT) program is an initiative of the Governors, Texas Homeland Security, 2017 – 2021 Strategic Plan. Unlike many state projects, the TEMAT program is based on best practices shared from the local, proletarian level.

The programs origin actually began several years ago with the Bastrop wildfires of 2011, the 2015 Central Texas flooding, and culminating with the December 2015 tornadoes in the Dallas/Fort Worth region.

Texans have always assisted their neighbors in times of need. It is one of the defining characteristics of this great state that speaks to our distant heritage. The magnitude of these significant events highlighted the need to support and augment local emergency management efforts. In particular was the urgent and daunting requisite to begin the long-term recovery process.

The city of San Marcos, Bastrop County, and Hays County rallied around one another to bring resolve to overwhelming circumstances in Central Texas. Comparably, Dallas/Fort Worth experienced similar challenges in North Texas with the impact of several jurisdictions.

Kenneth Bell (2016), Emergency Management Coordinator (EMC) for the city of San Marcos states that, "Many jurisdictions are stretched beyond capacity in large scale events and need trained, seasoned emergency managers to provide aid in the daily emergency management activities that will eventually translate to long-term recovery operations that can go into months, and even years, after the disaster."

Collectively, Josh Roberts (2016), EMC for the city of Lewisville provides a vision stating, "An Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Support Team offers the framework for a professional emergency management team that can be quickly mobilized to support their fellow emergency managers and EOCs during response, relief, and immediate recovery efforts."

The lessons learned and shared from these local entities provided a spring board to launch the new TEMAT program for the state of Texas. TEMAT is the forward response and recovery team for the Texas Department of Public Safety. The program serves as a state resource with multi-disciplined, multi-talented, and highly qualified members. A TEMAT member is a subject matter expert with a mastery of all phases of emergency management. TEMAT is deployed under the direction of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, as required to support local entities in the event of a catastrophic incident or event. The response teams are recruited from various disciplines at the local level, and coordinated with other state agencies.

The purpose of the program is to deploy an experienced, cohesive team to an event, incident, or threatened venue with an effective and coordinated response in support of a local EOC or Disaster District. The type of team deployed will be appropriate to the size, scope, and complexity of the situation.

The flexibility of TEMAT offers adaptability for a wide range of scenarios. During the response phase of a disaster, TEMAT can assist a region in defining the area of operations, impacts, and in determining the potential resources needed to support the incident or event. Disasters are fluid and dynamic events requiring a common operating picture for situational awareness. TEMAT can objectively evaluate the overall situation and provide guidance to local officials.

Obviously disasters require large amounts of varied resources requiring logistical support. TEMAT will work behind the scenes to ensure resources and their operational objectives are achieved. The environment created by disasters necessitates the proper collection, sharing, and flow of information. TEMAT facilitates this exchange of information in a timely and organized manner.

Anyone with experience in emergency management will tell you that one of the biggest challenges during disasters is the financial element. TEMAT will establish financial tracking processes to assure that the cost of an event can be compiled into daily cost tracking reports and used to support the completion of Disaster Summary Outlines. Reporting correct financial information is imperative for the overall future health of the impacted area.

The planning component of disaster response also presents unique encounters. Planning consists of three rudiments; identifying exactly what happened, what is currently happening, and what will happen in the future. TEMAT can support planning and aid with enhanced and measured decisions.

One of the most overwhelming responsibilities of disaster response is donations and material management. The general population has good intentions and wants to provide assistance for their communities or neighbors. Experience has demonstrated time and time again that if the correct attention is not directed toward proper organization, it will only contribute to the overall disaster. Similar constraints are found with the need to manage and organize volunteers. TEMAT has the experience and resources to mitigate anticipated difficulties with donations and volunteers.

Texas leads the nation in disaster responses. In fact, records indicate that on average, Texas experiences a major disaster every eight months. Our state is diverse with a varied population, geography, and weather. Even the ways city and county governments operate are distinct among themselves. While Texas certainly has its share of large cities, the majority of Texas is rural. Many times, jurisdictions find themselves understaffed with limited resources.

For example, an EF-4 tornado touches down in a rural area with a population of 4,500. This town has a volunteer fire department of 20, a police department of 6, a sheriff's office of 6, an EMS agency of 4, and a public works department of 4. There is no doubt that first responders from the region will emerge for the response. However, when the lights and sirens cease, search and rescue is complete, and the proverbial fires are extinguished, most of these agencies will return home. Unfortunately, the impacted jurisdiction is left to pick of the pieces.

When you look at the Incident Command System (ICS) or the National Incident Management System (NIMS), it is an operations based structure. While ICS or NIMS is beneficial and adds incredible organization for an incident, it has failed to address the immediate needs of recovery initiation. The experiences of San Marcos, Hays County, Bastrop County, and the D/FW Metroplex have demonstrated that early recovery efforts need to run simultaneous with response.

EOC Support Team

D/FW EOC Support Team working at the Command Post for the Multi-Agency Resource Center in Garland 2015. (Photo courtesy of Josh Roberts, EMC for city of Lewisville)

The TEMAT program is a grassroots program that exists today because of the foresight and vision of several local emergency managers with the fortitude to pursue excellence in customer service for the people of this great state. Furthermore, the North Central Texas Council of Governments has been diligently supporting the EOC Support Team concept in the D/FW area as a regional project. With this mindset, they understand that our constituents are more than customers; they are our friends, co-workers, and more importantly our families. Some will ask, "What is the mission of TEMAT?" Quite simply stated, it is to leave a jurisdiction better than when we arrived.

TEMAT strives to provide a consistent and professional approach to emergency management, while at the same time, assisting our emergency management partners across the state with experienced coaches and mentors.

"No one gets an iron-clad guarantee of success. Certainly, factors like opportunity, luck and timing are important. But the backbone of success is usually found in old-fashioned, basic concepts like hard work, determination, good planning and perseverance."
-Mia Hamm
Retired American professional soccer player, two-time Olympic gold medalist and FIFA Women's World Cup Winner


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