For municipal and county emergency coordinators, preparing for the next disaster is a year-long endeavor.

Emergency coordinators in the area prepare for everything from major flooding, to hurricanes, chemical spills, terror attacks and oil spills, such as the recent spill in Galveston Bay, among other scenarios. Those training sessions can be anything from sitting around a table talking about how to respond to a given situation to live drills with multiple agencies.

Whatever the drill is, the emergency coordinators in the county say they are essential.

“The key to our success is training and exercise,” said David Popoff, Galveston County’s emergency management coordinator, while leading a hazardous materials training exercise at Mainland Medical Center last month.

More than 20 people from different areas of the medical field and community volunteers from three area counties gathered to learn about the proper way to respond to a hazardous material situation.

While the training itself was important, the chance for people from different departments and organizations to meet and become familiar is another benefit of those types of training, Popoff said.

“On disaster day, we are not exchanging business cards,” he said.

A lot of training exercises go on both inside and outside of Texas City’s refineries and chemical plants, said Bruce Clawson, who recently retired as the head of the emergency management office for Texas City and is still consulting with the city and private industry.

A major training event usually happens every quarter in Texas City, as well as a yearly full-scale drill, he said.

“All that training together makes us familiar with one another,” he said.

Texas City is unique in that it has to prepare for just about every major event from hurricanes to problems at a refinery, to hazardous material issues, among many others, said Derek Duckett, the new emergency manager in Texas City.

Along with meeting other emergency personal, training helps point out strengths and weakness that can be improved in a response plan, Duckett said.

Municipalities across the county have certain events or disasters that are high on the list. For Galveston, hurricanes are always a concern.

The city of Galveston will put together four or five training events a year as well as numerous other sessions and conferences, said Charlie Kelly, Galveston’s emergency management coordinator.

The next training event is scheduled for May 28 and not only will it include working with the different departments in the city but will also include a town hall meeting for residents to hear from speakers including the mayor, county officials, National Weather Service and the U.S. Coast Guard among others, he said.  

In the past training slowed down when hurricane season ended but not any more, Kelly said.

“We train all year long,” he said.

Along with hurricanes and other events, League City has trained on flooding events and response to pipeline ruptures in the past, said Dena Mahan, League City’s emergency management coordinator.

A new scenario she is working on organizing is a response to an active shooter in the city, Mahan said.

It’s something that seems to be happening across the country and it takes a combined effort to respond to those situations, she said.

“It is always best to practice that before it happens,” she said.

League City has about three or four exercises a year and regularly partners with neighboring municipalities and the county, she said.

“You don’t want the first time you meet somebody is on a scene,” Mahan said. “The more you plan and train together, the better.”

Contact reporter Christopher Smith Gonzalez at 409-683-5314 or chris.gonzalez@galvnews.com.

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