In the event of a serious emergency, evacuations are always a possibility. A major chemical spill on the highway could affect large portions of the City due to our size. Fortunately the probability for a major evacuation is slim, however there is always that possibility and potential that one could be necessary. Flooding is not a serious threat in the City of Live Oak, and generally speaking flooding and hazardous materials accidents tend to cause the majority of evacuations across the country, along with hurricane evacuations from the coastal communities.
The State of Texas does have a mandatory evacuation law that may be implemented by the Mayor when no other option is available. Many states have similar laws and they are in place to protect citizens who would otherwise refuse to get out of harm's way. Unfortunately enforcing mandatory laws are difficult as evidenced by mandatory hurricane evacuations along the coast. Some citizens simply refuse to leave and law enforcement officials simply can’t enforce the order usually due to manpower issues. Generally speaking it is hoped that when a mayor orders a mandatory evacuation citizens will comply.
Once an area has been evacuated you also can be prevented from going back into the area for safety and security purposes. Re-entering a disaster area that has been cordoned off by law enforcement officials can be a serious issue and citizens can be arrested for crossing a police line. Generally speaking, only authorized emergency personnel are allowed within a disaster area for search and rescue operations. Once these operations are complete and the disaster area is considered safe, citizens are usually allowed in to look over their property and the damage for short periods of time.
In the City of Live Oak an evacuation order will never be issued unless there is a serious threat to the safety of our citizens. An evacuation decision will be carefully considered before the order is given to insure no other options are available.
One very important point to consider at this time! If you elect to remain in your home following a mandatory evacuation, you may be on your own. Emergency workers may not be allowed to re-enter an evacuated area if there is a serious threat to their safety.
In the event an evacuation is necessary, this is not an easy task for emergency personnel. Citizens have to be notified; they must be informed why the need to evacuate; where should they go; which way should they go; and finally are there any special instructions. In addition shelter locations must be established and the City must coordinate with the American Red Cross. These tasks must be completed quickly and with a limited City staff this can be difficult.
If you have to evacuate your home you are not going to have time to pack many things, unless the evacuation can be planned for like a coastal evacuation when a hurricane is threatening. There are some very important items that you do need to take with you and this is an area you should include in your family disaster plan. Here is a short list of some very important items.
- Prescription drugs and other medications needed by all family members.
- Baby supplies if you have an infant.
- Identification along with money and/or credit cards.
- Proper clothing as needed, i.e. a jacket or raincoat depending on the weather.
If you have small children you might want to include:
- A blanket or two.
- Something to read.
- A small toy or game.
There may also be other items depending on family needs and these should be clearly identified in your family plan by making an evacuation checklist. Remember keep it simple and keep the list as short as possible. Once again remember you are not going to have a lot of time to pack!
One other and very important issue to consider during an evacuation is the family pets! It has been noted over the past few years that people will refuse to leave their homes if they cannot take their pet(s). As such, local agencies are working closely with animal shelters and humane societies to assist families who have pets. In some cases specific shelters are established where pets can be brought however there are specific rules for bring pets. Generally speaking ALL pets must be in a pet carrier or crate. Pet owners also need to provide food along with at least one dish for water. The pet should have a collar with a leash and the owner should have their shot records with them. Shelters accepting pets will not allow them in the main shelter area but normally in a separate room. Owners will be responsible to feed the animals and take them outside as needed.
Citizens with pets who plan to take them along must plan ahead. It might be better to take them to a relative or friends home then bring them along. As noted only a few shelters will accept pets and generally speaking these are not available following an emergency neighborhood evacuation.
One additional option regarding pets is to consider going to a motel/hotel that is located outside of the City should a disaster occur. Many people would rather stay at a motel/hotel then going to a Red Cross Shelter so citizens with pets might want to plan ahead and determine which motels/hotels allow pets of various types and sizes. Just an option!
Once a decision has been reached and evacuation is deemed necessary, the area will be identified by street boundaries. Using street boundaries is the easiest way of identifying an evacuation area and the City must assume citizens are familiar with key streets within the City.
In conjunction with the area citizens will be advised where to go and possibly which way to travel to avoid a particular hazard if applicable. In rare cases, citizens may be directed to shut off utilities however this should not be done unless directed.
In regards to shelters the American Red Cross normally will decide on a facility based on the nature of the hazard, the number of people involved, the potential duration of the evacuation, and the shelters locations that area available.
The American Red Cross has a large number of suitable facilities that they have an agreement with to utilize as a shelter location. This includes many schools, churches, and other public buildings. Within the immediate area the following locations may be used as a shelter:
Kitty Hawk Middle School
830 Old Cimarron Trail
Universal City, Texas
Judson High School
9142 FM 78
In the event of a major emergency or an actual disaster, the City will activate the Emergency Operations Center, or EOC, in the Live Oak Fire Station. The purpose of this facility is to have a central location for a command center to coordinate all emergency activities among all City departments, other Federal and State officials, and the various other agencies such as City Public Service, telephone providers, and others.
The Emergency Operations Center is located adjacent to the Live Oak Dispatch Center and the Office of Emergency Management in the fire station. The facility is a secure area and is equipped with numerous telephone and data port jacks, radio communication equipment, fax line, cable television, and has an assortment of maps and charts.
The Fire Station has full generator power and this facility and dispatch also have additional back-up power if necessary. The Office of Emergency Management is responsible for the overall operation of this facility and will operate under the National Incident Management System (NIMS) utilizing the Incident Command System (ICS). Once activated all department heads and various other City staff members will fill key positions on the EOC staff. The EOC has the capability of operating around the clock for as long as necessary to manage any kind of emergency within the City, or to oversee a significant event planned within the jurisdiction.
What are “Hazardous Materials?” We all here this term on a regular basis however many citizens really do not fully understand what hazardous material really is. Frequently the term is used in conjunction with a serious incident that has occurred somewhere in the nation.
Hazardous materials may be gases, solids, or liquids that are part of our daily lives. These products benefit us in many ways and make our lives much simpler. The listing of products is endless and may include many things that you might not even consider as being hazardous. This material is transported around the county on a daily basis in railroad cars and in trucks on our highways. Accidents rarely occur however when they do they usually make the evening news.
Hazardous chemicals and other materials are used to manufacture many items we use on a daily basis and for the most part these are absolutely safe. As long as the product is contained in an appropriate tank car or packaged properly in a railroad car or truck it is perfectly safe. Unfortunately accidents do occur and when these products escape they can spill onto the ground or be released into the atmosphere. Liquids under pressure can turn into a gas and some products are flammable when mixed with oxygen. Following an accident these products may quickly catch fire and create a huge fireball.
In addition to tanker trucks and railroad tank cars, any freight car on a train and almost any truck traveling down the highway could be dangerous as well. A trucker carrying a load of merchandise is completely safe however if that trailer overturns and the contents inside get mixed up and packages break open we may have a serious problem as well. The truck may be carrying paper products, an assortment of household cleaning products, pool chemicals, charcoal lighter fluid, along with many other goods. If all of this material mixes and a fire starts that involves the trailer, the burning contents could give off hazardous fumes. In many cases firefighters may have great difficulty in extinguishing these fires until they can determine the contents.
Hazardous Materials Transportation Route:
In 1999 the City of San Antonio, Bexar County, and several other jurisdictions along the IH 35 corridor, including the City of Live Oak, began discussions concerning establishing a Local Hazardous Materials Route though the area. The need for this route came to light the previous year when an accident on the interstate in downtown San Antonio became a major incident. The accident could have led to a major disaster as it involved hazardous materials in a highly populated area and it occurred on an elevated highway bridge.
The City of San Antonio took the lead role and working with the county, all of the other jurisdictions, and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) developed a transportation route through the area for all trucks carrying dangerous materials that were passing through the area without stopping. A lengthy process that included many public hearings, the Texas Department of Transportation approved the plan and it became effective in February 2000.
The route for hazardous materials traveling through Bexar County and the City of San Antonio is once a truck enters the county on either IH 10, IH 35, etc., they shall utilize IH Loop 410 to travel around the City and exist on the appropriate roadway. No truck carrying hazardous material shall travel through downtown San Antonio on an elevated highway under this plan. Highway signs have been erected by TxDOT that identifies this route.
The selection of Loop 410 was determined to be the safest route through Bexar County, as opposed to the outer Loop 1604. The outer loop passes over the Edwards Aquifer on the North side and around the Southern part of Bexar County Loop 1604 is only a two lane highway with cross traffic. In addition emergency service providers are scare in this part of the county and may have difficulty dealing with a major incident should it occur.
In the City of Live Oak we cannot really control the transportation of hazardous materials, providing they have a need to be there. Tanker trucks deliver gasoline and diesel fuel on a regular basis to various locations with the City, and trucks travel along the interstate highway along within Loop 1604 and Pat Booker Road.
In the event of a hazardous materials incident the fire department is the primary responding agency. They will attempt to first identify the product, cordon off the area, and initiate evacuation of the immediate area if necessary. Depending on the product they may be able to contain it. If the product is on fire, they may attempt to extinguish the fire, or they may determine that it is safer to let the product burn off, and insure the fire doesn’t spread. In some cases it is actually safer to let a hazardous chemical burn away than attempting to put the fire out and then have to deal with an unstable situation.
The Live Oak Fire Department, along with several others in the Metrocom area determined that there was a need for a hazardous materials team, however no one department could establish one. As such a team was formed among the departments through an organization that already existed. The Combined Emergency Services Organization (CESO) was created many years ago and is made up of all the fire and EMS organizations in the Metrocom. At the present time a team is available to respond when notified by either the Live Oak Dispatch Center or the Universal City Dispatch Center. The team is housed at the Universal City Fire Station and one of the equipment trailers used by the team is stationed at the Live Oak Fire Station.
In addition to this local team, in 1999 the Fire Department signed a county-wide agreement with the City of San Antonio regarding emergency response to major incidents and in 2004 the City signed a regional agreement through the Alamo Area Council of Government (AACOG).
A serious hazardous materials accident has never occurred in the City however there is that possibility. This type of an incident can occur quickly and without any warning, and they can create a serious emergency, requiring immediate evacuations by our citizens and even the business community.
In the event of a serious emergency or an actual disaster, it is essential that every community have a system in place to warn all of their citizens and businesses of the incident, and to provide them the necessary emergency information in a timely manner.
The City of Live Oak benefits greatly from being part of a large metropolitan area like the City of San Antonio. The City has all major TV networks, many radio stations, and a large newspaper. The best resource in getting information to the general public is through radio and television, and all of our local media outlets have the capability of monitoring emergency radio traffic that deals with major incidents such as accidents, major fires, and hazardous materials accidents. In addition the media does an excellent job in keeping the general public informed when severe weather threatens.
In addition to the media, the City of Live Oak has three warning systems in place to alert our citizens should an emergency occur at any time – day or night. These systems are:
- The Emergency Alert System (EAS) for radio and television.
- The telephone Emergency Notification System (ENS).
- The Connect CTY Telephone System.
The Emergency Alert System (EAS):
The Emergency Alert System covers all radio and television stations, including all cable stations, within the San Antonio area. When this system is activated an alert tone will be broadcast on the radio or TV station, and a message crawl will generally be used that will move slowly across the top or bottom of the screen. Radio stations will simply broadcast the message. In some cases the message crawl may direct viewers to go to another channel where the message will be displayed. Most likely the local government channel. In addition, most alerts will be re-transmitted by the National Weather Service on the NOAA Weather Radio system.
In the event of a serious emergency, the local broadcast stations such as ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC, may elect to simply interrupt their programming and go “live” with their news personnel to cover the emergency and then they will pass along the emergency information.
As a matter of information the EAS system is tested on a weekly basis, at various times during the day.
In addition to emergency messages, the EAS system can also be used by law enforcement officials including the Live Oak Police Department, to issue an “Amber Alert” for a missing child that may be in danger or abducted. Also law enforcement agencies may also issue a “Silver Alert” for an elderly citizen who has gone missing from their place of residence. In Texas a third alert can be issued and it is known as a “Blue Alert” and it is used when citizens are asked to be on the lookout for suspects in certain crimes against law enforcement officials.
In closing the Emergency Alert System will soon be replaced by a brand new, high tech system, that will be known as the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System or IPAWS. This new system is scheduled to be fully operational sometime in 2012, however a nationwide test is scheduled later this year for all radio and television stations.
The Emergency Notification System (ENS):
The telephone Emergency Notification System sometimes referred to as “reverse 9-1-1” uses the data base of the Bexar Metro 9-1-1 District, and is one of the most effective methods available, as it can call every telephone number in a selected area, and pass along emergency information. This system is especially useful at night when everyone is asleep and not listening to the radio or watching TV.
This system can also be tested by selected jurisdictions around the area and a test call can be done through the Bexar Metro 9-1-1 District.
While this system is one of the best methods for notifying the public of an emergency, technology has created some problems in today’s society. The ENS system can only call land line telephones! Cellular telephones cannot be called by this system as those numbers are not in the data base and they cannot be entered. As such the City decided we needed an option.
Connect CTY Telephone Alerting System:
In December 2008 the City of Live Oak - Office of Emergency Management entered into an agreement with a private company known as Blackboard Connect Inc. for their telephone system known as Connect CTY. While similar to the Emergency Notification System it has the capability to call any number entered into the system and several numbers can actually be entered. Citizens can have their home telephone number and two (2) more numbers that can be cellular telephones. In addition an e-mail address can be entered along with text messaging. This system now provides an additional resource for communicating with our citizens and the business community as well.
In addition, while the other two system – EAS & ENS are only available for “emergency messages” we can utilize Connect CTY for other issues that may affect our citizens and the business community. Calls may be made for a major water outage, street closures, or other similar issues. We can also make public service announcement calls to pass along important City information that may occur, such as reminding citizens about a City event such as Park Day, a parade, or some other event.
As a matter of information, only a few selected City staff members are able to make calls using Connect CTY and any announcements or similar messages must be approved by the City Manager or the Assistant City Manager. In addition, these calls will be made at a convenient time such as in the early evening hours between 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM.
For additional information on Connect CTY or to sign up click on their icon below.
Other Warning Systems:
In the event of a serious incident such as a hazardous materials accident involving dangerous chemicals the activation of these system may take too long and therefore police officers or firefighters may have to go door to door asking people to evacuate because of the emergency or to shelter in place. Needless to say if this ever occurs, citizens should immediately take action and comply with the instructions provided by the officers or firefighters. Staying behind may place you in grave danger and we may not be able to assist residences if an area of the city becomes too dangerous due to a hazardous chemical.
One additional warning device that is also available to all citizens and the business community is to purchase a NOAA Weather Radio. The primary purpose of these radios is for weather bulletins such as watches and warnings however the newer models on the market today include the Emergency Alert System. If an EAS bulletin is broadcast the local weather service office can immediately send it out via the NOAA Weather Radio.
In closing all citizens and the business community should be familiar with the City’s emergency warning system. For additional information contact the Office of Emergency Management located in the Live Oak Fire Station.