AUSTIN, Texas - The exercise began Saturday with a simulated storm, named Hurricane Charlie.
By Monday morning, only on computer screens, the storm was churning out of the Caribbean and tracking toward the Texas Louisiana coast. The state EMA Special Operations Center was filled with personnel from 30 different agencies. The group methodically went through evacuation and response procedures.
"Ideally there should be a dull hum out there, a good battle rhythm, everyone is communicating with purpose and direction, not out of chaos or confusion,” said Chief Nim Kidd who leads the Texas Division of Emergency Management.
Among those taking part in the drill is Gilbert Jordan, his job is to coordinate the response from TX-DOT.
"Since our last big event, there are a number of improvements TX DOT has done. We've increased our capability of dispensing fuel to motorist who are possibly stuck in traffic during evacuations, or evacu-lanes, a lot of evacu-lanes have opened up, and our plans for contra flow we are fine tuning those to insure if we have to evacuate we are as well prepared as we can be,” said Jordan.
The weather threat in Texas is not limited to a storm targeting the gulf coast region. That's why the drill is also good practice for other natural disasters.
"The same people that are sitting back here, doing planning or responding to hurricanes, are the ones that we used for wildfires, tornados and floods,” said Kidd.
When the operations center isn't activated situations are monitored by a team in a room on the other side of a large window. It’s called the Bubble and it’s manned around the clock in order to quickly respond to fast developing incidents. Explosions, like the one 4 years ago in the town of West. As well as the evacuation of the police headquarters in Dallas,Monday morning. A suspicious package was found just as the hurricane drill was ramping up. The situation remained a local response because it turned out to be a hoax. The situation in Dallas was an example of how a state response is primed and ready to go.
"While these folks may not be sitting in the room beings us, all of these folks, when those events happen, everybody is on a short leash, and we have a rotating schedule where we bring those folks back into the SOC, in a moment’s notice,” said Kidd.
Preparing for a disaster is not limited just to these professional responders. Its advised now for residents to also work on their own personal and family disaster plan.
"I think it still encourages the need for people to be prepared, and while we are here to talk about hurricanes today, whether it’s an active shooter in the workplace, or any place you are out visiting, we need people, we need our community to be ready to respond, they have to think about it which is planning, they have to take some action which is gather supplies and put it in a kit, and then go through the process which is training and then they need to be ready to exercise that for all hazards,” said Kidd.