Homeland Security and Emergency Management
HSEM is a department of County government and is comprised of the Chief and staff members. This professional county staff has a highly developed professional background and significant training in emergency operations and homeland security. All professional staff members are Certified Emergency Managers though the State of Texas and/or nationally registered. Throughout the last few years they have managed major events associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, winter weather-ice storms, sporting events (such as the Super Bowl and NBA Championships), West Nile Mosquito and pandemic events, etc. This staff has been tested by disasters on multiple occasions and have always excelled.
HSEM partners with municipal emergency managers, emergency responders, law enforcement organizations, non-governmental organizations, county departments, state/federal agencies and volunteer/community organizations to provide a comprehensive (county-wide) emergency management program. Dallas County uses an “all-hazards” approach to emergency management. Building internal and external emergency partnerships and teams is an important part of our job.
Our Mission and Vision
The mission of the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is to provide a 24-hour operation to reduce injury or loss of life and property and protect Dallas County residents from all hazards by providing and coordinating resources, expertise, leadership and advocacy through a comprehensive risk-based homeland security and emergency management program that includes prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.
Duties and Responsibilities
Emergency Management program from Dallas County stems from Chapter 418 of the Texas Government Code, which requires that each county maintain a disaster plan responsible for emergency preparedness and coordination of response to disasters. This statute is the basis for the State/local relationship, which is solidified by inter-jurisdictional agreements with Dallas County and its municipalities for mutual assistance on day-to-day operations and during times of disaster.
In December of 2009, the United States Department of Homeland Security designated the Dallas/Ft. Worth areas as a Tier One Terrorism Threat Level community. This is based on the amount of critical infrastructure and key resources located in the region. In our Homeland Security role, HSEM must be prepared and able to quickly adapt to changing events and situations. Through effective “situational awareness”, we can implement programs to better prepare our communities, protect lives and critical infrastructure against threats and intentional acts of terrorism.
HSEM works with the North Texas Regional Council of Government and regional jurisdictions to maximize our homeland security federal grant opportunities. The North Texas region continues to receive grant funding under the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) and State Homeland Security Grant Programs.
HSEM conducts emergency management outreach programs for communities, public events, non-government organizations, volunteer groups, etc. Through these efforts, we provide public educational materials, presentations, and preparedness literature. Our goal is to “get the word out” and provide tips on surviving an emergency such as a tornado, hurricane, winter weather, flooding or terrorism attack. In these efforts, we collaborate with numerous organizations such as the American Red Cross, faith-based organizations, community groups, Dallas County Health and Human Services, and others. HSEM provides a website that provides information on constructing “Family Emergency Plans”, constructing emergency preparedness kits and tips on surviving emergency events.
HSEM provides county employees with emergency preparedness and workplace safety training.
Using a “color coded” message, that emphasizes an “all hazards” approach; our employees are better prepared to manage major emergency events. HSEM works with other county department to develop emergency plans and procedures to better protect Dallas County employees, facilities and critical infrastructure. HSEM maintains an internal website available to our employees that provides emergency preparedness and planning information.
HSEM is the lead agency to work with 22 municipal partners in the development and management of a countywide mitigation program. A County Mitigation Plan has been developed for the purpose of outlining threats and hazards that may impact Dallas County and its municipalities. A Hazard Analysis-Risk Assessment has been conducted to better manage these threats and risks. Municipalities may either collaborate with the County in its mitigation planning efforts or have their own mitigation plan. Mitigation Plans haves a significant impact on the County’s ability to prevent or survive a major emergency event.
HSEM provides a comprehensive all hazard emergency planning, training and exercise program. In accordance with State and Federal requirement, HSEM develops, maintains, and updates community-based emergency plans and procedures. These include the County Emergency Operations Plan (EOP). The EOP mandated under Chapter 418 of the Texas Government Code and serves as the “play-book” through which all emergency operations are executed. Other plans include the County Mitigation Plan, Severe Weather Plan, Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP), etc. In all, 25 county emergency plans and procedures are periodically tested and validated through emergency training and exercises. In addition, HSEM provides leadership and coordination to internal and external partners and stakeholders to better ensure preparedness programs have active participation and are coordinated throughout the county. The County holds an “Advanced Level of Preparedness” which is the highest level of planning recognition by the Texas Division of Emergency Management.
HSEM manages the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) program. The LEPC is a countywide committee that manages the federally mandated hazardous material community right-to-know reporting, chemical inventory, and site-specific emergency planning program. Currently over 1700 Dallas County, facilities are required to report annually and provide chemical information in accordance with Title III of the federal Superfund requirements known as SARA.
HSEM maintains a state of emergency operational readiness and vigilance 24/7/365. The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is fully equipped and available for immediate activation by county staff in the event of a major emergency. The EOC becomes the counties “command and control center” to provide county leadership with a central location through which to orchestrate the county response to a major emergency event. The EOC serves as the link between municipalities, to interface with state and federal agencies, for resource management. HSEM maintains an after-hours, on-call duty officer program to ensure county resources are available during day-to-day emergency events.
During major emergency events (such as coastal hurricanes), HSEM may be requested, by the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to open multiple emergency shelters and activate a storm re-location center to assist in coastal evacuations. HSEM will work with municipal emergency managers and the American Red Cross to identify and staff these emergency shelters throughout Dallas County. Buses and transport vehicles may be identified and dispatched to assist in transporting affected persons in identified coastal evacuation areas.
Following a major event such as tornados, HSEM partners with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to manage emergency recovery operations. The recovery process includes participating in damage assessment, providing emergency resources to assist with cleanup operations, tracking disaster cost and FEMA reimbursement. When the event occurs within a municipality HSEM works with the city’s emergency manager, to better ensure they have federal and state assistance.
Interoperability Information Management Project
HSEM has been working with internal and external partners to implement an emergency information management software solution known as WebEOC. The computerized software solution provides a means of sharing emergency information (through the Internet) with identified emergency partners and stakeholders. This interoperability project has currently been implanted throughout the State of Texas and the North Texas Region. HSEM is working with the Dallas County Information Technology Department and others to implement this program countywide, within each municipality.
Employee Emergency Notification Project
HSEM recently purchased a new Employee Notification System through which emergency information may be passed to identify county employees during emergency events. The system pilot project involves both Courthouses and will allow emergency alerts and notifications to be shared with County personnel in real time. This system will be used to pass information on weather emergencies, fire and hazardous materials events, suspicious mail or packages, active shooters (terrorism) events, bomb threats and building evacuations. Messages will be passed through the use of computer emails, cellphones, text messages, etc. This new system will add a significant enhancement to our emergency planning and threat management program within county facilities.
New Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Project
For a number of years Dallas County government has been searching for a location to house a new EOC. The current EOC is small and lacks adequate space to conduct large-scale emergency operations. Recently, the County Clerk has agreed to provide an EOC and office space in a building that he is proposing to purchase for record storage. It is envisioned that the EOC will be moved from its current location in the Records Building to this new facility. This relocation will add more space for the EOC and office space for HSEM. This will free up much needed space in the Records Building for other County uses. We are now in the design phase of this project and look forward to its implementation in 2013.