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Emergency manager discusses disaster preparation

By DAVID TEWES
June 29, 2010 at 1:29 a.m.

Jeb Lacey

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Victoria's emergency operation center was partially activated to monitor strengthening Hurricane Alex as it headed for northeast Mexico or South Texas.

Jeb Lacey, the Victoria County emergency management coordinator, said the main function has been to communicate with the public, businesses and city and county departments.

He said the office would continue to watch Alex until it moves inland well south of the Crossroads or there is no chance of it threatening the region.

Reporter David Tewes spoke with Lacey about private and public preparedness for disasters.

Q: Have you seen or heard of anyone making preparations for Alex?

A: I haven't seen any, but I haven't been out looking either, other than seeing people on the news and such obviously making runs to stock up on hurricane supplies.

Q: Does that concern you or do you think it's still too early to worry?

A: It can mean one of two things. Either No. 1 it means everybody is already prepared, which obviously we hope is the case. No. 2, they're not too concern about Alex, which is probably pretty reasonable at this point because the probabilities are that it won't have a significant impact on our area. But I would hope people would take this as a reminder to have a severe weather kit available. I think the most important thing is to remind people we are in hurricane season. Even if we weren't, we have good reason to have a good emergency supply kit on hand year round in the Crossroads.

Q: Are you surprised more people and businesses aren't making preparations?

A: I think a lot of the business community is in the loop through our Partners in Preparedness Program and through efforts from the Victoria Economic Development Corp. and our chamber to communicate with them about the hazards. I would think that considering the projected path of the storm, we could experience the potential for high winds here and definitely some rain. But that's the same as the rain event we had back in May, where we had 9 or so inches of rainfall. We hope the majority of our business community is ahead of the curve on that. There's more to being prepared than getting a hurricane supply kit. The bottom line answer is that I'm not exceptionally concerned. But I hope it's indicative of the fact we've got a community full of intelligent and capable individuals who have already done their preparing.

Q: How well prepared do you think the general public is for a storm?

A: Our community has experienced disaster in the past. It has been a long time since a major hurricane has come through this area. But they've had reminders with Hurricane Claudette most recently. You can go back to the '98 flood. You can even go back this year to the river flood not too long ago. We've had hazardous materials events, bus crashes and things like that. This community has seen its fair share and I hope and I guess I believe for the most part they understand their personal responsibilities and take them seriously. There are always people who fail to plan and there are always people who plan, but their plans fail.

Q: Have you heard of any problems that would keep people from preparing, such as shortages?

A: Obviously stuff is flying off the shelves in our local lumberyards and grocery stores. That happens every hurricane season. Believe it or not, they are actually prepared for that. We haven't had any shortages reported to us that are significant or a threat to life safety if we do have another storm or another type of emergency in the near future. It doesn't mean there aren't some isolated examples that exist out there, but at this time there haven't been any that have come to our attention.

Q: What has local government done to prepare?

A: The first and most important thing we've done is just made sure we had all our continuity of government operations settled and that we understand exactly where our responsibilities are across the city and county government. The second thing we've done is, as a minimum, walked through the process of our public works response. That includes restoration of critical lifelines - roadways, access to our utilities and power grid, and lastly showing that we can maintain and quickly restore our public safety response.

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