Texas Governor's Office Receives Hurricane Task Force Report

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Texas Governor's Office Receives Hurricane Task Force Report

#1 Postby southerngale » Mon Feb 20, 2006 3:21 pm

This will primarily be of interest to all Texans.


Governor's Office Receives Hurricane Task Force Report

NEWS RELEASE FROM THE OFFICE OF TEXAS GOVERNOR RICK PERRY


HOUSTON - Gov. Rick Perry today officially received the final report of the Task Force on Evacuation Transportation and Logistics and said he will begin working with legislators to implement recommendations that will save lives the next time a major storm threatens the Texas coast.

"The Task Force on Evacuation, Transportation and Logistics has now given us a roadmap to make coastal evacuations safer and more efficient based on detailed advanced planning, and changes to our command and control structure," Perry said. "This report will improve planning and coordination, which will result in a more effective hurricane response when lives hang in the balance and every second counts."

Last September, following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Perry, with Harris County Judge Robert Eckels and Houston Mayor Bill White, appointed the task force, which then held hearings across the state to gather input from state and local officials and the public. Both White and Eckels joined him at a news conference announcing the report, as did several other key officials.

"I formed this task force because, while I believe we successfully achieved our objective of evacuating coastal Texans in advance of the landfall of Rita, we could have done a better job," Perry said. "I welcome their report, and I look forward to working with legislators and local leaders in implementing recommendations that will save lives the next time a large storm eyes our coast."

The report makes recommendations in the five key areas of command, control and communications; evacuation of people with special needs; fuel availability; traffic flow; and public awareness. Perry pointed out that many aspects of the report necessarily require more detailed planning.

For example, the report recommends that the Texas Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety develop a detailed contra-flow plan for key interstates and highways, and that execution of that plan occur before an evacuation begins. It also calls for fuel and aid stations at regular intervals along an evacuation route to help Texans caught in gridlock as they evacuate.

"The fact is there is no magic formula to end gridlock in Houston on an average workday, let alone when a couple million people or more head for the highways within a few hours of each other," Perry said. "Our aim is to make the situation better by locating fuel stations and aid stations along the evacuation route."

The report also recommends that all licensed and unlicensed special needs facilities, such as nursing homes, maintain up-to-date evacuation plans, which is currently not required of unlicensed facilities, and calls upon local officials to develop a database of Texans with special needs, which would help ensure that those who cannot evacuate by themselves get the assistance they need.

"Hurricanes cross jurisdictional boundaries," Perry said. "That's why it is important for the state to have a greater coordinating role, and for local implementation to occur under a regional command structure as the report recommends. If this report is implemented, I believe it will lead to more orderly evacuations in the future, and saved lives."

Perry also thanked the 14 task force members for their work and the support many local elected leaders showed during this review process.

Specific recommendations of the Task Force are:

Command Control and Communications

The legislature should provide the Governor with the explicit authority to order multi-jurisdictional evacuations and to coordinate those evacuations through the State Operations Center.
Develop and implement a statewide hurricane and evacuation plan.
Develop and implement a regional response and evacuation plan.
The Governor should direct the immediate implementation of the Regional Unified Command Structure throughout the State of Texas.
DPS should assume control for all command, control and communications operations outside the control of Regional Unified Command.
DPS should assume authority over designated evacuation route roadways during events outside the control of RUC.
Create at least eight Regional Response Teams to support multi-jurisdictional evacuations.
Ensure that all public education facilities make their transportation assets and facilities available to local governments for evacuation and sheltering during a disaster.
The Governor should direct an annual statewide hurricane evacuation exercise to test state and local evacuation and sheltering plans and execution.



Special Needs

Direct the development and implementation of a statewide special needs evacuation and shelter plan.
Direct all licensed and unlicensed special needs facilities to maintain evacuation plans that have been approved by the local jurisdiction and the Regional Unified Command.
Direct the development and implementation of a special needs evacuation database with priority for evacuating coastal jurisdictions.
Direct the development and implementation of a shelter plan for pets.



Fuel Availability

The Texas Department of Transportation should be directed to work with the Texas Oil and Gas Association and industry partners to develop a plan to address fuel availability along major evacuation routes.
Local governments should ensure fuel availability for an evacuation.



Traffic Control

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDoT) should develop contra-flow plans for major hurricane evacuation routes.
The state should coordinate with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to ensure that checkpoints on major hurricane evacuation routes do not impede traffic flow
TxDoT should upgrade the one-lane section of Highway 290 at Brenham immediately.
TxDoT should prioritize evacuate route infrastructure projects recommended in the March 2005 Report to the Governor on Hurricane Preparedness.



Public Awareness

Utility companies that provide service to Texas counties in hurricane evacuation zones should include hurricane preparedness and public awareness information in monthly billing statements at least twice during the hurricane season each year. Other forms of communication should be developed to inform citizens of the location of their property in relation to hurricane surge zones.



Funding

The Texas Legislature should activate the Disaster Contingency Fund to support state and local agencies as they plan for, and execute evacuations.

A complete copy of the report can be found at http://www.governor.state.tx.us.
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Zach

#2 Postby Zach » Sun Feb 26, 2006 11:56 pm

Thanks for posting this Southerngale-I was wondering if anything was in the works to deal with all the problems seen during Rita. Am I wrong to assume that it won't be possible to get these recommendations implemented into law in time for this upcoming hurricane season, due to the fact that the legislature won't meet again until 2007?

Also a couple of comments:

Page 6 of report: "Unexpected fuel shortages along evacuation routes caused hundreds of motorists to be stranded..."

I don't have any exact numbers but "hundreds" seems like a gross understatement. I was in Huntsville before and during the storm and from any overpass in town I could see at LEAST a thousand people stranded on north and south contraflow lanes as well as medians, frontage roads, and parking lots.

I'm glad the fuel problem is being addressed. It seems like it would be simple enough for the state to contract out to various statewide fuel distributors, the responsibility to service predetermined gas stations along known evacuation routes during an emergency (with accompanying reimbursements and breach of contract immunity). Basically, if the call goes out from the state, turn around that tanker heading to Abilene, and head for Katy.

We Texans need to address these issues because they don't just relate to hurricanes-many of these problems will appear again should we face any urban catastophic event ( I'll let you use your imagination).
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#3 Postby southerngale » Wed Mar 22, 2006 2:23 pm

Update...

Perry Approves Hurricane Task Force Recommendations
Reported by LIZ AUSTIN
March 21, 2006 - 4:01PM

AUSTIN (AP) _ Gov. Rick Perry issued an executive order on Tuesday requiring state officials to develop more detailed hurricane evacuation plans, including a plan for opening major highways to one-way outbound traffic as storms bear down on the Texas coast.

The changes are meant to prevent another chaotic evacuation like the one prompted by Hurricane Rita last September, when about 60 people, including 23 nursing home patients, died along the state's traffic-clogged highways.

"Our goal is to learn from the lessons that Hurricane Rita taught us and make Texans safer in future mass evacuations," Perry said in a statement. "These directives focus on saving lives and reducing the vulnerability of Texans _ particularly those least able to fend for themselves."

The executive order includes most of the recommendations made by a task force Perry charged with figuring out what went wrong in September and how to more efficiently handle evacuations.

In addition to directing state officials to devise a plan for one-way traffic, or contraflow, the order asks the Texas Department of Transportation to find a way to provide fuel for evacuees. That was a major problem in September, as gasoline stations ran dry and stranded motorists lined highway shoulders waiting for help.

Additionally, the order directs the state's emergency management division to create a computer database of people with special needs so officials will know who needs help evacuating and where they live. The division also must work with school districts and universities to find buses to use in evacuations.

But the order does not include the panel's top suggestion _ that the governor be put in charge of ordering hurricane evacuations. To do that, the Legislature would have to change a state law that leaves evacuation decisions up to county judges.

Leaders along Texas' 367-mile coast complained that their residents _ the most vulnerable to hurricanes _ couldn't make it inland because larger cities such as Houston called for evacuations before coastal residents were able to leave.

The problem was compounded because some 3 million Texans fled their homes, more than twice as many as state officials said needed to evacuate the projected strike zone.

Some drivers were trapped in gridlock for up to 24 hours before the first one-way, or contraflow, lanes opened along Interstate 45, which connects Dallas and Houston. The Texas Department of Transportation ultimately converted 487 miles of highway to one-way traffic in what it called the largest use of contraflow in the state's history.

Of the 60 people that died during the evacuation, many succumbed to heat exhaustion and heart attacks after spending long hours in their cars without water or air conditioning.

The task force said an unknown number evacuees _ possibly thousands _ turned around and went home. That could have had catastrophic consequences if the hurricane had hit Houston as meteorologists first predicted. Rita ultimately made landfall in a less densely populated area near the Texas/Louisiana border.

"While we will not be able to eliminate traffic when a major urban area is evacuated, we can take steps to improve the flow of traffic in future evacuations," Perry said.


http://www.kfdm.com/engine.pl?station=k ... local.html

http://www.governor.state.tx.us/divisio ... 03-21.3932

To view a full copy of the executive order, please visit http://www.governor.state.tx.us/divisio ... ders/rp57/.
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