Four Re-entry Task Forces were established this summer by the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to assist local jurisdictions in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. The mission of these Task Forces includes providing immediate mass care, damage assessment, emergency search and rescue, securing the impacted zone and synchronizing local, state and federal response.
TDEM Chief Jack Colley has asked TEEX’s National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center (NERRTC) to assume key roles in the execution of the Re-entry Task Force missions. NERRTC has drafted the state plan for employment of the Task Forces and will be responsible for mobilizing and staging of personnel and equipment prior to deployment to the impacted zone.
In addition to its role in staging the Task Forces, NERRTC will also provide personnel to staff the State’s Forward Operations Center (SOC Forward). The SOC Forward is a state-of-the-art mobile command center, which will deploy to the site of a disaster in order to provide coordination and control over state resources, such as the Re-entry Task Forces, which are deployed to assist local jurisdictions. NERRTC will assume responsibility for storage of command center equipment and will conduct periodic training of SOC Forward personnel.
According to Jim Sachtleben, NERRTC’s Program Director for Response, the Re-entry Task Forces are an all-hazards resource, with a major focus on hurricane response. The Re-entry Operations Plan provides for a flexible response through mobilization of one or more of the Task Forces. The plan calls for a heavy Task Force with approximately 500 personnel to be staged in San Antonio and three light Task Forces of about 250 personnel to be staged in Dallas, Waco and Austin. Once staged, the Task Forces will deploy forward at the direction of TDEM.
During August, in an effort to finalize re-entry plans and to ensure a clear understanding of the roles of all participating agencies, NERRTC conducted a two-day plan review in San Antonio, which was attended by more than 120 participants representing state and federal agencies and volunteer organizations.
“This is our first response mission,” Sachtleben said. “This new role is a good fit for NERRTC and meshes well with our long-standing role in emergency response training and exercises.”
As part of the staging mission, NERRTC will maintain a database of credentialed Task Force members and when directed by TDEM, will prepare staging areas for the arrival of Task Force members. Sachtleben said this will involve deploying approximately 12 NERRTC employees to the Heavy Task Force staging site and eight to each of the three light task force staging sites.
Approximately 30 NERRTC employees will also staff ICS positions in the SOC Forward’s 53-foot mobile command center trailer. NERRTC will also provide a headquarters commandant with a small staff with responsibility for logistics support of the mobile command center and its integration into the local, state and federal response apparatus.
During the summer, NERRTC conducted two mobilization exercises (MOBEXs) for the Re-entry Task Forces, involving more than 500 participants.
“While the Re-entry Task Forces and SOC Forward are yet to be deployed in support of response operations, it is clear that NERRTC will be involved in the planning for and execution of this increasingly important mission for the State of Texas,” Sachtleben said.