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Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2017 Vol. 64 No. 1

2017 Houston-Galveston-Sabine Lake Hurricane Evacuation Full-Scale Exercise (Hurricane Charlie State Exercise Series)

Every year, Texas’ coastal communities face the possible threat from hurricanes. While it has been a few years since Hurricane Ike targeted our state, the threat is not diminished. The day will come when we are faced with a major storm setting its eye on Texas. In order to properly respond, our agencies and personnel have to be trained and prepared; plans have to be in place to guide our actions. To prepare for this event, the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) held a series of exercises in 2016 to test certain elements of an air evacuation from the Rio Grande Valley. The culminating full-scale exercise involved federal, state, and local participants in DPS Region 3, and dealt with the evacuation of citizens using commercial and military aircraft in anticipation of a hurricane forecast to make landfall along the Texas coast. In 2017, the focus shifts to ground transportation across Texas’ interstate highways, mainly in DPS Region 2 from Beaumont to Galveston.

TDEM recognizes its responsibilities to protect the public from, and mitigate the effects of, the potential hazards and threats associated with a major hurricane. This includes the necessity for a properly planned, equipped and integrated response in the event of such an incident. With this responsibility in mind, TDEM, together with its state and federal partners and in conjunction with local jurisdictions, will hold a series of workshops and tabletop exercises, leading up to the full-scale exercise planned for June 1-9, 2017.

The exercise is called the 2017 Houston-Galveston-Sabine Lake Hurricane Evacuation Full-Scale Exercise (Hurricane Charlie State Exercise Series). During the planning and the execution of these exercises, the state of Texas will test and build its capabilities to communicate, evacuate, transport and shelter. Specifically it will test abilities to:

  • Provide decision makers with timely and relevant information using various technologies.
  • Share information and warnings about evacuation, protective measures and inland sheltering efforts.
  • Track and account for evacuees forced to leave their homes.
  • Track finances associated with a mass evacuation.
  • Establish and maintain a unified and coordinated operational structure.
  • Coordinate critical transportation during an evacuation.
  • Effectively initiate, coordinate and sustain mass care operations.
  • Provide special medical and functional needs support services (FNSS) support to citizens in need of evacuation.
  • Coordinate the return of citizens to their communities after the storm.
  • Integrate resources during operations with all local, regional, state and federal entities.

These exercises establish a learning environment for participants to examine emergency response plans, policies and procedures as they pertain to hurricane threat and evacuation. The Hurricane Charlie Exercise Series is evidence of the growing public safety partnership between local jurisdictions, state agencies and federal partners in response to the potential of a major storm threating the state of Texas and its communities.

Exercises of this scale are also largely supported by volunteers. If you are interested in experiencing what it would be like to evacuate and would like to participate as a volunteer, please contact your TDEM district coordinator.

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