What we now call emergency management began with efforts to address growing threats of fire and disease in large cities and towns in the 19th century. Government Services were limited to minimal social services, churches, and other non-governmental services. In 1803, American responses to a disaster took a significant turn, beginning a pattern of federal involvement that continues to this day. When a extensive fire swept through Portsmouth, New Hampshire, community and state resources were overwhelmed by the response and recovery effort. Congress responded with the first legislative action making federal resources available to assist state and local governments. This congressional act of 1803 is commonly regarded as the first piece of national disaster legislation. Federal involvement was required by the threat of nuclear war in the days following World War II. These efforts resulted in a system of civil defense.
Today the emphasis is on the protection of the civilian population and property from the destructive forces of natural and man-made disasters through a comprehensive program of mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.
The College Station Division of Emergency Management (CSDEM) is involved in a number of services before, during, and after a disaster. Our activities fall within the four phases of emergency management: Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery.
Mitigation is the taking of action to reduce damages before a disaster strikes. This involves the awareness of potential hazards for our community, understanding the consequences of a given hazard, and applying this knowledge to help prevent damages from occurring.
The City of College Station has several hazard mitigation programs in place, to help eliminate or reduce the probability or impact of potential disasters. These efforts include: flood drainage improvements; conversion from overhead to underground utility lines; removal of structures located in flood plains; review and modification of planning & zoning and building codes.
Problems caused by disasters are typically:
• Loss of energy systems.
• Loss of communications.
• Reduction in response capability of public services, including police and fire.
• Debris blocking the streets; difficulties with transportation.
• Destruction of property.
• Contaminated water/environment.
We work with every city department to prepare for disasters, before they occur. Working in advance will help save lives, property, time, resources, and money. Working with local, state, federal and private entities, CSDEM also works to ensure the city successfully implements these plans and plans are regularly tested, reviewed, and updated. Our ongoing planning efforts include the maintenance of city emergency operating guidelines, which direct the city's response during and after a disaster. The city is part of the Brazos County Interjurisdictional Emergency Management Association, which includes Brazos County, City of Bryan, City of College Station, Texas A&M University, City of Wixon Valley, and City of Kurten. This organization is also involved in the development and maintenance of plans for several areas, such as communications, utilities, human services, transportation, donations management, terrorist incident response, and others. Exercises:
One way that we "test" these plans is with exercises. Each year, we are involved in a number of preparedness or training exercises, or drills. After an exercise, an after action review is conducted, where all of the participating agencies can discuss and assess the outcome, finding improvements as needed. These help us to ensure that the city is prepared to respond and recover from disaster situations.Funding:
CSDEM is responsible for the coordination of the city's Homeland Security grant program. Through this federal program, the city has received funds that have purchased a variety of equipment for our first responders.
During a large-scale disaster or emergency, the CSDEM will help coordinate the efforts of first responders, city departments, volunteers, and other agencies. Emergency Operations Center (EOC):
During large scale disasters, the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) may be activated. In this facility, representatives from several city departments and outside agencies will work in a coordinated effort, to ensure that information gathering, decision making, and resource allocations are carried out in an efficient and cost-effective manner.Public Information:
CSDEM works to ensure that all involve agencies will provide a consistent, unified, timely, and accurate message to the public. During large-scale emergencies, CSDEM will open a Joint Information Center to coordinate the outreach efforts to the citizens, with the help of the media.
Recovery is designed to restore the community to pre-disaster condition or better. On a short-term basis, the priorities will be in restoration of vital services and facilities. Long-term recovery from a disaster may take days, weeks, months, or even years. CSDEM will work with government agencies and nonprofit organizations to help provide assistance to disaster victims. We will help manage relief efforts, donations, and volunteers.