by Christa Lollis
County and city crews spent the day in the emergency operations center, preparing for a major storm. "We're calling it hurricane Jean. It's a category 4. It's coming towards East Texas. They're evacuating the gulf coast so we're preparing to handle those evacuees," Emergency Management Coordinator, Keith Wright explained. Actually, it's just a mock hurricane. Today's training exercise included all sections of the emergency operations system, including the multi agency communications center. It's made up of several East Texas governments that make sure there are plenty of nurses and aid workers that could be needed during an actual hurricane. The Polk County judge John Thompson says, "We have cataloged all of the resources in the 12 county area and we try to fill those needs locally. If we can't fill it then we bump it up to the DDC which puts us into the state system."
Even though this exercise was in Lufkin, it was all of the Deep East Texas counties that participated. "We don't have the territorialism. In other words it's everybody pulling together to try to make sure the system works," Thompson said.
This was all part of a statewide effort to make sure everyone is ready if a hurricane hits but with the area already going through Rita the city manager says, it's something they're used to. "We have the on the job experience for that but dealing with this different type of organizational created by the state and the federal government that's new to us and that's given us an opportunity to practice that and implement it." And that's why they're running through it now so that when a hurricane rips through East Texas there won't be any surprises.