Gov. Perry Launches Largest Hurricane Exercise in State History
Announces 2-1-1 Phone Lines Open to Help Coastal Texans Evacuate
As Texas kicked off a four-day hurricane preparedness exercise, Gov. Rick Perry announced today that the state's 2-1-1 service has been expanded to allow Texans who cannot evacuate themselves to register for transportation assistance should their community be ordered to evacuate.
"Texans who have no means of transportation or those who will require special assistance during an evacuation can now dial 2-1-1 to make arrangements in advance," Perry said. "Our 2-1-1 operators have been specially trained and are ready to assist those who need to arrange for transportation to get to safety when a storm threatens the Texas coast."
Coastal Texans who will require transportation assistance during an evacuation are urged to call 2-1-1 as soon as possible to relay their special transportation needs, and not wait until a storm is approaching the coast. By registering in advance, state and local officials will be better able to coordinate transportation needs.
Perry made the announcement as the state initiated its largest ever hurricane preparedness exercise designed to test state, local and federal officials' readiness to respond to a catastrophic hurricane; to practice new concepts in evacuation and sheltering; and to apply lessons learned from Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. Emergency responders will exercise preparations for a category five storm, with a strength and path that would require an evacuation from surge zones along the entire Texas coast, making landfall on Friday morning.
"For seven months, we have worked diligently to learn from the challenges of last year's hurricanes, and we have made remarkable progress in our preparedness," Perry said. "With systems to better assist Texans with special needs, new traffic management and fuel plans, and private sectors partners to oversee the distribution of food, water, ice and fuel, I believe Texas is a model in preparedness for other states."
Perry added that the exercise will help the state identify other issues that may need to be resolved before the hurricane season begins June 1.
The exercise, which runs through Friday, will focus on six areas - command, control, and communications; evacuation of people with special needs; fuel availability; traffic management and contra-flow; sheltering; and public awareness.
During the exercise, the State Operations Center (SOC) will be fully activated and serve as the central point of coordination for regions throughout Texas. Members of the state's Emergency Management Council, which includes representatives of 30 state agencies, will staff the SOC. About 100 cities and counties will be involved in the exercise, engaging an estimated 3,000 members of the emergency response community and private sector partners.
Officials in each of the five hurricane evacuation areas will practice the response activities required to evacuate surge zones, and officials in sheltering jurisdictions across the state will simulate preparations for the sheltering of evacuees, including those with special needs. The Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) will conduct all operations necessary to implement contraflow on evacuation routes, but will not actually impede traffic as part of the exercise.
Local officials will also be asked to establish alternate communications within their regions, in preparation for the anticipated loss of telephone communications in hurricane strike zones. The newly-established fuel team in the SOC, which will coordinate fuel supply and distribution along evacuation routes, will also be activated in the exercise.
In the wake of Hurricane Rita, Perry appointed a task force to hold hearings across the state and recommend ways to improve future hurricane evacuations and preparedness. In March, Perry issued an executive order that implements most of the task force recommendations and directs an annual statewide hurricane exercise. Hurricane season starts June 1 and lasts through November 30.