‘Have disaster, will travel’: Lewisville emergency response goes mobile

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Lewisville's emergency management duo, Eric Hutmacher (left) and Josh Roberts (right), set up and showcased the portable emergency operations center in City Hall Monday night. Roberts said the equipment is easy to deploy and for one or two people to handle. Hutmacher said it took about half an hour to set up. (Photo by Christina Ulsh)

Lewisville is preparing a portable and easy-to-deploy emergency operations center, or EOC, the first of its kind among local governments in Texas.

“There’s two of these of this kind in the whole state of Texas,” said Josh Roberts, emergency management coordinator. The Texas Division of Emergency Management packaged one first. “We’re the first local government to put something like this together.”

The city’s Office of Emergency Management showcased its “EOC-in-a-box” first at Western Days and again for city officials before the council meeting this week.

AV tools, multiple Generac energy systems, Pelican trunks, plotter paper and printer for on-the-spot map-making and backup lighting are some of the equipment purchased with Homeland Security funding for the mobile operations center.

“We have to package this in a way to where it’s deployable via mutual aid or across the state,” said Roberts, who has, alongside Eric Hutmacher, lead an EOC support team in the region. The team assists cities in disaster response. “We did this in Garland after their tornados, we coordinated that to the other jurisdictions as well—Glenn Heights, Rowlett.”

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Brandon Jones, TJ Gilmore, Josh Roberts, Neil Ferguson, Eric Hutmacher and Brent Daniels (from left, clockwise) take a look at the air-conditioned tandem axle trailer that holds Lewisville’s portable emergency operations center. The city is the second establishment in Texas to have an EOC-in-a-box, the Texas Division of Emergency Management being the first. (Photo by Christina Ulsh)

The Federal government granted Lewisville $130,000 with the Urban Area Security Initiative, to be used by August of 2017, said Hutmacher, emergency management specialist. The tandem axle trailer and emergency management tools have totaled around $80,000 so far.

“We still have some stuff that’s ordered, being delivered,” he said.

Roberts said his favorite tool so far is the Barco ClickShare buttons. The buttons allow individuals to automatically display and share information from their laptop screens.

“EOCs require a lot of visual displays and the ability to manage those visual displays very simply,” he said. There are also whiteboards with handles available in case technology fails.

Assistant city manager Melinda Galler made remarks after the demonstration.

“This equipment is stuff we didn’t have,” she said. “It really does take us to a new level.”

While the operation-center-on-wheels is for city response to disaster, there are a number of ways households can prepare for emergency situations:

  • Have a plan.
  • Make a kit.
  • Prepare to be self-sustaining for 72 hours.
  • Select an out-of-town contact who the family can communicate with in case something happens.
  • Have a list of and prepare important documents, such as insurance paperwork, social security cards, copies of the important stuff in the household. Put them in a Ziploc bag.

Visit cityoflewisville.com/LewisvilleOEM for more emergency preparation info.

“It all starts with personal preparedness, it really and truly does,” Roberts said. “The more an individual is ready for a disaster at their household and for their family, then the more they might be able to help their neighbor, help their community and the less we have to worry about, honestly.”