COLLEGE STATION – In the wake of 2017 hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma, the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) has expanded its core training mission to include strategic disaster recovery training to help communities address the broad range of issues associated with the disaster recovery continuum.
“TEEX is already a leader in emergency response and rescue,” said TEEX Deputy Director Al Davis. “Offering training focused on recovery planning efforts will help jurisdictions and communities become more resilient when dealing with the next crisis, whether it’s another hurricane, flooding, wildfires, tornadoes or other incident.”
Following the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, TEEX worked collaboratively with Rebuild Texas efforts with the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES). “That experience confirmed that recovery is an area of training that needs to be emphasized, so TEEX took this on,” Davis said after the announcement of the new initiative at the TDEM Future Proofing through Hazard Mitigation Workshop held May 30-31 in College Station.
“TEEX is leading the way — working to address not only the needs of Texas but also the needs of the nation in this area of recovery,” he added. “We changed the name of our National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center to the National Emergency Response and Recovery Training Center to reflect this new focus.”
TEEX is developing four courses related to disaster recovery in partnership with TDEM and Texas Task Force 1 (TX-TF1). The new courses include an online Disaster Recovery Awareness course, an instructor-led Disaster Recovery for Senior Officials course, and an eight-hour Introduction to Disaster Recovery Public Assistance Programs, as well as a Disaster Financial Management course.
“In 2017, there were 16 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in the United States,” said Tony Crites, Associate Division Director of TEEX’s Infrastructure Training and Safety Institute. “This set a record of annual spending on disasters that exceeded $300 billion. The courses TEEX is developing will help take some of the mystery out of recovery and allow our communities to better manage the recovery process. We are excited to provide these courses to assist the state and nation in working through the challenges of recovering from a disaster.”
Davis said his recent meetings with DHS/FEMA officials overseeing recovery, infrastructure and resiliency confirmed a national need for additional training and resources to help emergency managers and response agencies, municipal and county government officials, and leaders of recovery committees plan for disaster recovery.
In a recent survey of Texas city planners, “Planning to Reduce the Impact of Future Disasters” ranked just behind the need for “Housing Repair.” One of four initial findings showed “Technical assistance and training in disaster recovery for local officials is in high demand.”
Davis, who also chairs the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium (NDPC), said the seven-member organization has focused its nationwide efforts on preparedness and response, but will now include a greater emphasis on recovery. TEEX’s National Emergency Response and Recovery Training Center will work with the University of Hawaii’s National Disaster Preparedness Training Center, and affiliate NDPC member, FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute in Emmitsburg, MD, to leverage existing courses related to disaster recovery, in addition to those being developed by TEEX.
“This shift in focus aligns with the needs resulting from three back-to-back storms, coupled with requests from state and national leadership, and endorsement by TEEX CEO Gary Sera,” Davis said. “TEEX will have a strategic coordination role in striving to make communities more resilient.”