Since the oil spill, life has been a blur of meetings, reports, surveys and passing endless streams of information both up and down the chain of command.
The typical day for me has been to wake up at 4:45 a.m. and get to the joint command at the convention center by about 5:50 a.m. After checking in, I’d have a quick chat with Charley Kelly and Rosana Beharry from our city Emergency Operation Center to talk about what transpired during the evening the day before and the night.
The morning briefing precedes smaller meetings, writing reports and sending them out, surveying beaches, getting input from beach cleaning and park staff and passing that back to the unified command.
Charley and Rosana have been pulling 12-hour shifts in the command center, along with representatives from the Coast Guard, General Land Office, wildlife recovery groups, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the responsible party and others. When not on their designated shifts, they’ve been in contact when issues arise, which has been basically 24 hours a day.
Kelly and Beharry have represented all of our interests very well, but they are not alone in this level of dedication. The entire command center, which vaguely resembles the NASA control room, is divided up into groups overseeing operations, resource procurement, finance, command, wildlife, environmental testing, liaison, media relations, etc. Each person in each group has worked untold hours at breakneck speed to handle this complicated event as it unfolded. All of this has been orchestrated using the guidelines of the national incident management system.
Each person and group knows their specific role and how to interface in the most efficient way with the whole. All the information relevant to the city is funneled through our local emergency operation coordinators to the appropriate groups. Since the beaches and some parks were impacted, much of this went through me to various departments of the Park Board.
The Park Board beach maintenance and parks staff has been invaluable in surveying and reporting developments, as my staff has been. I’ve been so thankful for all they’ve done as well as city staff and the tourism and development and administrative departments of the Park Board. But I’d expect that from locals who have so much invested in our beaches, parks and tourism. What I didn’t expect is the response from all the different groups that came here to help.
As of Tuesday, more than 15,000 workers had recovered 5,515.5 barrels of mixed oil and water, 116,304 bags of oily solids and 672.87 barrels of decanted oil. Volunteers and professionals have captured, rehabbed or recovered 578 animals. Countless volunteers have been checking the beaches, orchestrated by the Galveston Bay Foundation.
It’s been a humbling experience to see so many dedicated people work so hard. The Coast Guard has done an amazing job coordinating everything and the responsible party has really stepped up. The speed, efficiency and commitment of all the responding parties not only deserves our gratitude but, for me, has renewed my faith in our capacity to dedicate ourselves to a cause that supports others and the environment.