As you are reading this, I am wrapping up from another four days of emergency management training. One of the joys working in a small town is that you get to wear many hats. Although my passion and expertise is in law enforcement, in addition to my duties as the chief of police, I also serve as the city’s emergency management coordinator (EMC).
I am not exactly sure what that means or how those duties fell into my lap except that the city manager told me that I was one of the few people on staff that knew what EMC stands for.
While we take an all-hazards approach in emergency management (that is, we try to be prepared for everything from a terrorist attack to a hazardous material leak to a natural disaster), our primary focus is on hurricanes.
I am not the only one who wears many hats. Most urban areas have a full time emergency management staff; here in Port Aransas, we divvy up the duties among several of us. Our key decision makers, City Manager Robert Bradshaw and Mayor Keith McMullin, are well versed in hurricane preparedness. Bradshaw has real-life experience in dealing with hurricanes when he served as city manager on the Florida coast. McMullin is a hurricane wonk and received training in hurricane preparedness at the National Hurricane Center.
Pam Hatzenbuehler, the deputy city secretary, keeps up with the paperwork. Because emergency management is regulated by the state and federal governments, there is tons of paperwork documenting everything from training to plans for mitigation, response and recovery.
John Speights, our building official, is an expert on damage assessment and will lead a team of local contractors in conducting preliminary damage assessments on structures and critical infrastructure in the aftermath of a major storm.
The head of the gas department, Mitch Ortiz, and the director of the Nueces County Water District No. 4, Mark Young, train and plan with us to restore critical infrastructure.
The city’s finance director, Darla Honea, and her staff are trained and prepared to deal with the long- and short-term financial issues that arise in the wake of a disaster.
The city engineer, Jim Urban, assistant city manager David Parsons, and the public works crew have spent years on hurricane mitigation planning, including building and reinforcing the dune systems and working with the city council to improve drainage.
Outside the city, we have built partnerships and have a strong coalition with the City of Corpus Christi, Nueces County, our regional State Disaster District, and the National Weather Service to assist us with planning, public education, evacuations, re-entry and recovery efforts if they are ever needed.
Even though I am still new to this role, and I am not exactly sure what I am supposed to be doing, as I was proofreading this, it occurred to me that we seem to have all of our bases covered: Decision making, check; planning, check; mitigation, check; response, check; recovery, check; finance, check. All we need is a bigger hat rack.
Scott Burroughs is the chief of the Port Aransas Police Department. Contact him at sburroug firstname.lastname@example.org or at 749-6241.