Emergency Management Program/Coordinator
Emergency management is a vital and sometimes under-appreciated program. Its importance is noted by Texas Government Code 481.102 that states that each county shall maintain an emergency management program or participate in a local or interjurisdictional emergency management program which has jurisdiction over and serves the entire country or interjurisdictional area.
This code makes it sound simple, but how emergency management programs are established has taken on many different forms throughout Texas. Emergency management may be accomplished by the County Judge and taken no further; an emergency management coordinator (full time, part time, paid or volunteer) may be appointed to oversee the program; or the county may elect to participate in an interjurisdictional program. The program may reside under the County Judge or Commissioners or tasked out to another department within the county (fire, sheriff, road and bridge, etc.).
As an example, Potter and Randall counties agreed to participate in an interjurisdictional program along with the city of Amarillo. The Department of Emergency Management resides within the organizational structure of the city and provides emergency management services to both Potter and Randall counties. Even so, the functions of emergency management and the relationship with the County Judge and the Commissioners Court are similar no matter where a program resides or how it is structured.
The goal of emergency management is to conduct a program of comprehensive emergency management within the county. Comprehensive emergency management includes the mitigation of, preparedness for, response to, and the recovery from, any manmade or natural disaster. The goal is the same no matter the structure of the department or program. The way the goal is accomplished may differ depending on the organization. Generally speaking, when a coordinator has been appointed, the following general responsibilities are accomplished:
- Develops and maintains the emergency operations plan for the county; advises those responsible for specific sections of the plan in developing their annexes; writes such annexes which have universal application; annually ensures the plan is reviewed and revised as necessary; maintains various other plans and procedures; briefs public officials and staff members on application of emergency plans and standard operating procedures; develops and maintains the hazard assessment survey.
- Develops operational liaison with private and volunteer agencies; develops resource lists; identifies groups to benefit disaster operations; assigns and defines the roles of various groups; works with the fire department and fire marshal’s office on hazardous materials response; interfaces operational plans with government agencies, volunteer groups, industry and health organizations.
- Develops and conducts county exercises; assists industry/health organizations and volunteer groups in exercise development; participates in and conducts training for Emergency Operations Center (EOC) staff and volunteer groups; supervises radiological response training; analyzes the emergency service skills needed by county forces and obtains/provides necessary training.
- Prepares and maintains departmental budget; authorizes expenditures; maintains control over equipment assigned to department; submits required documentation to ensure the timely receipt of Federal Emergency Management Agency funds; searches for outside sources of revenue; obtains and administers emergency management/homeland security grants; supervises office staff and volunteers.
- Oversees the operational capability of the EOC and Mobile Operations Center (MOC) at all times; upgrades and equips EOC/MOC as necessary; maintains stocks of emergency supplies; develops and maintains an emergency communications system; maintains pieces of emergency equipment. Activates, maintains, and tests all indoor and outdoor warning systems; develops new systems; upgrades and expands existing systems; surveys new locations for outdoor warning components/sirens; supervises installation of same.
- Activates the EOC to supervise weather watch and support EOC operations if the situation warrants; responds upon request to major emergency situations throughout the county to provide emergency management services. Warns the community when a threat is determined.
- Prepares warning materials and announcements; conducts public awareness campaigns; briefs radio, television and print media on emergency management matters; presents topical information at civic organizations, schools, churches and community centers.
- Keeps the County Judge and governing body apprised of the jurisdiction’s preparedness status and emergency management needs.
- Initiates and monitors the increased readiness actions among the county services when disaster threatens.
- Serves as the staff adviser to the County Judge on emergency management matters.
- Coordinates with organized volunteer groups and private agencies regarding emergency operations.
The intent of this article is to explain the emergency management program along with the duties of the emergency management coordinator and his or her relationship to the Commissioners Court. I have outlined the duties and responsibilities that I provided to Potter and Randall counties in hopes that it will leave the reader with a general idea of the many things involved with emergency management. In some areas, the duties and responsibilities will differ greatly because the program has been developed to provide the services and fit into the structure of a specific locality.
– By Walt Kelley, C.E.M., retired