TxDOT Prepares for 2012 Storm Season
Agency begins early review of emergency response efforts
AUSTIN - Hurricane season has arrived along with a flurry of activity around the state--government agencies, volunteer groups and private sector partners, all getting ready for the upcoming storm season.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) plays a critical role in hurricane education, evacuation and recovery. So each year, along with its hundreds of partners, the department begins, months ahead of time, preparing for the possibility of seasonal storms.
"Each year, TxDOT begins a comprehensive review months in advance of hurricane season to make sure emergency response processes are in place and that the agency has allocated enough equipment, materials and employees to do the job if called upon,” explained John Barton, TxDOT's deputy executive director.
TxDOT plays a key role during and after a storm, Barton added. The agency is committed to three guiding goals-getting people out of harm's way, getting them home safely and providing assistance with cleanup and recovery.
"Safety is our top priority at TxDOT and the basis for all the agency's transportation decisions, particularly so during emergencies,” he noted.
Steps the agency takes each year to prepare for the storm season include:
Reviewing emergency management plans and training personnel on emergency traffic control measures, debris removal and other recovery procedures. Participating in regional and statewide emergency drills with other agencies and local jurisdictions. Identifying and preparing facilities and equipment needed for quick mobilization. Reviewing evacuation plans -- making sure contraflow routes are open (no lane closures). Testing all Dynamic Message Signs (DMS)
Last year, TxDOT expanded its social media reach to communicate hurricane information faster and more efficiently. This year, the agency will continue using social media -- Twitter and Facebook specifically -- to reach an increasingly more technologically-savvy population. Traditional media -- newspapers and television -- also play an important role in getting out the message.
This season, each tweet will carry a specific storm-related hashtag to provide an easy way to catalog all the tweets and allow all Twitter users to quickly find hurricane information.
TxDOT has 11,115 Twitter followers and more than 6,015 Facebook fans. The numbers grow hourly.
A comprehensive hurricane preparedness section on the agency's website includes information on road conditions and evacuation procedures, in addition to links to other agencies with information on local conditions including the Texas Online, a state website. Regional maps online show evacuation routes, all accessible online.