Are Officials Prepared For Disasters?

Just this week, Texoma has seen Earthquakes, Tornadoes and Grass Fires. Thursday is Severe Winter Weather Preparedness Day, so Newschannel 6 is looking out for your family. We worked to find out what plans are in place to keep you safe – no matter what comes.

When disasters strike, emergency managers must be able to act quickly. "You ask the question, how do we react to this and how to we make this not so big," explained Archer County Emergency Manger Kelly Desautel. The answers to those questions come from a detailed emergency plan.

The State of Texas provides cities and counties with a template to use for an emergency plan. Each local plan is the customized for the individual locale. Those plans are expansive. "I have a book about 10 and a half inches thick," said City of Wichita Falls Emergency Management Coordinator John Henderson.

The plans are used for any hazard. "We use an all hazards plan," said Wichita County Emergency Manager Lee Bourgoin. Most agencies do. "Here in Archer County, we utilize the plans as a whole for any and all hazards because you never know what's going to happen. That's the whole thing with emergency management, its an emergency that you don't normally plan for so it kind of gives you ideas as to how to take care of that particular emergency," said Desautel.

The plans are geared at addressing all the main breakdowns during an emergency. The complications are similar, no matter what the problem is. "It all pretty much looks at the same thing, you're all looking at a mass destruction, you're looking at trying to keep your population safe, and you're trying to get the word out as quickly as possible… The biggest breakdown would be communications; that's the ultimate breakdown on just about anything," said Desautel.

Other contingencies are also addressed. "Our plan deals with search and rescue, communications, shelter and mass care," among other things Henderson said.

With the plans developed, training becomes the most effective way to ensure its success. "Its all down to exercising. You take all your plans that you've got in place you take your annexes you take everything and you bring everybody that you can that would be involved in that particular emergency and you bring out the plan and you go over it," Desautel said.

No matter what happens, area officials say they are ready to react. Desautel said the goal is the same everywhere. "It happens safely, it happens smoothly ,and everyone gets out and can come back and be alive."

It is recommended that every family have a kit to survive emergencies. The American Red Cross has information on how to prepare.

Paul Harrop, Newschannel 6