Meet Laura Norman of TEXSAR: Texas Search and Rescue

1 04 2018

The following article was published on March 28, 2018, by VoyageHouston on its website.  Back in 2015, Fort Bend County approved a Memorandum of Understanding with Texas Search and Rescue.  Fort Bend County OEM appreciates our relationship with TEXSAR, but we appreciate our relationship with Laura Norman who, for many years, has been an integral part of the Office of Emergency Management’s volunteer program.  Laura has endless energy and it appears that she often squeezes more than 24 hours into her normal day.  Laura is a fantastic public servant.

Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura Norman.

Laura, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
After having served in search and rescue since Hurricane Katrina, I began working with TEXSAR four years ago, along with my husband Edward. We saw a level of professionalism on the team and the dedicated servant hearts that served there. Since that time we have both deployed throughout the State in a variety of capacities. Working for TEXSAR gives us an opportunity to share our mission with our family and the community.

I started out working for TEXSAR in Incident Management and Ground Search throughout the State. For the last three years, I have headed up the TEXSAR Gulf Coast Division in the Houston/Galveston region. My responsibilities include overseeing training, deployment, and recruitment in this area. Additionally, I sit on the Board of Directors for TEXSAR and assist with developing the strategic direction for the team and in particular the Support Service Branch of TEXSAR.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?

When I first began serving as the supervisor for the Gulf Coast Division of TEXSAR, we had a handful of members and few opportunities to train and deploy locally. Fortunately, some dedicated folks stepped up and added their expertise and sweat equity to the team locally and we began to grow slowly. It was most definitely a team effort, literally.

After my first year, we noticed that our local training had a pretty high percentage of involvement and attendance which encouraged our members to recruit friends and family. We added weekly options for field training for ground search and the K9s, with the help of a very experienced member, Joe Huston coordinating the training. This encouragement allowed us to build our local capabilities and opened up more opportunities to serve.

After Hurricane Harvey, word got out that we had professionally trained responders in the Houston/Galveston region and our membership locally doubled in just a few months. We have many firefighters, law enforcement, EMS and veterans on TEXSAR and many were looking for a place to serve during and after Harvey. It has been a great experience to see so many members of the community step up and prepare themselves for the next disaster.

Our biggest challenge locally is building our reputation throughout this region. We are frequently called by the Texas Rangers to assist with cases in smaller jurisdictions and work alongside many different agencies in Central Texas frequently. In the Houston/Galveston region, we are relatively new and have been spent a great deal of time cultivating relationships and partnerships with agencies and organizations in this region.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about TEXSAR: Texas Search and Rescue – what should we know?

TEXSAR is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with divisions in North Texas, West Texas, Coastal Bend, Central Texas and the Gulf Coast.

With more than 300 members, TEXSAR deploys to all 254 counties in Texas at the request of law enforcement, emergency management, and public safety agencies. TEXSAR personnel are professionally trained to respond to wildland fire, ground search and rescue, flood and swift water rescue, Incident Management, medical response, K9 search (land and water), aerial search with both drones and aircraft, disaster response and recovery as well and advanced search planning. There is never a charge to our requesting agencies for TEXSAR services.

I am most proud of the dependability and the integrity of the team as a whole. Being able to work side by side some of the most amazing law enforcement and public safety personnel in the nation is a humbling privilege that we do not take lightly.

During Hurricane Harvey, TEXSAR deployed nearly 90 trained search and rescue personnel from Corpus Christi, Rockport, Port Aransas, Wharton, Beaumont as well Fort Bend, Harris, Montgomery and Galveston Counties. I have never been more proud of the team’s servant hearts and their professional response. Hundreds of Harvey victims became survivors as a direct result of the service of TEXSAR personnel. They inspire me.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
The quality that makes me successful is the same one that I share with my TEXSAR teammates. We are mission minded people who live our lives on purpose.

Contact Info:

Phone: (512) 956-6727


Time to Start Thinking About the 2015 Hurricane Season

11 04 2015

jpg-HurricaneGetReadyBelow is a short article by Heather Nolan,, The Time-Picayune.  The article was published on April 9th. The forecast, from a very reputable source, indicates a lower than average hurricane season.  I often get asked by citizens— how bad a hurricane season are we going to have this year?  There is never a totally accurate answer.  All predictions of hurricane activity are estimates—- they cannot be viewed as being precise.  I am glad to hear that the forecast is calling for a “mild season.”  But, one must always remember———— it only takes one hurricane making landfall in our region to turn a “mild season” into an “active season.” So please do two things.  First, read the article below.  Second, start getting ready for the upcoming hurricane season by going to the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management website and review the information posted about preparing for a hurricane.  Here is the link:

Colorado State University climatologists are predicting a lower than average Atlantic hurricane season, with three hurricanes and seven named storms in 2015. They predict one of those three will be a major hurricane – a category 3 or higher.  In a forecast released on April 9th,  climatologists Philip Klotzbach and Bill Gray said the combination of a moderate-strength El Nino and a relatively cool tropical Atlantic would keep hurricane activity low.

According to their forecast, the Colorado State University climatologists’ 2015 predictions are below average compared to a 29-year period between 1981 and 2010.  Hurricane seasons in those years averaged 6 ½ hurricanes, two major hurricanes and 12 named storms.  The 2015 forecast follows a relatively quiet 2014 Atlantic hurricane season that saw only six hurricanes – two of them major – and eight named storms.  It was the second consecutive quiet year for the New Orleans area since 2012, when Hurricane Isaac flooded hundreds of homes across parts of the area. Hurricane season begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is expected to release its 2015 hurricane predictions in May.

Remember—- the 2015 Hurricane Season starts on June 1st!


San Francisco Jet Crash Puts Focus on Rescue Perils

9 08 2013

Fire-AirportsThis item is reprinted from the August 8th edition of the New York Times.  The article was written by Matthew L. Wald and gives a glimpse of the challenges fighting fires at airports.  The recent crash of the Asiana Boeing 777 at San Francisco International Airport on July 6th brought much attention to airport firefighting and rescue operations, especially after the facts seemed to point to one of the passengers being run over by a responding airport fire truck.  As in much of today’s firefighting, approximately 70% of the calls handled by airport fire crews are for medical-related calls for assistance.  But, in addition to being emergency medical technicians, airport firefighting crews also spend time being drilled on the proper firefighting techniques for each of the many models of airplanes.  In the article below, Mr. Wald gives you a glimpse into some of the complexities of emergency response at airports.

The firehouse near the end of Logan Airport’s Runway 14 is home to the pride and joy of the airport’s rescue and firefighting team: Engine 3, a 1,000-horsepower, four-wheel-drive behemoth with thermal imaging and a radar screen, its body painted a special color, Boston Lime Green.

Acquired in 2010 for $1.3 million, Engine 3 will soon be joined by two more high-tech trucks as Logan plays catch-up with the challenges of fighting fires on today’s bigger and more sophisticated planes.

“When the bell rings, you’ve got to be ready,” said Edward C. Freni, Logan’s director of aviation.

But fire trucks can present their own dangers, fire experts say. The crash of a Boeing 777 at San Francisco International on July 6, and the fact that one of the three passengers who died was run over by a fire truck, has drawn new attention to airport firefighting like the kind at Logan.

Although there will not be a definitive explanation of how the passenger died until an investigation is completed by the National Transportation Safety Board, which is reviewing onboard videos, reports circulating among firefighters indicate that at San Francisco, one fire truck pulled up near the airplane’s nose and started spraying foam. A second truck arrived later, forward of the right wing, and ran over the passenger, who was likely covered in foam.

“They’re responding with very large trucks capable of delivering 3,000 gallons of water with fire suppressant in a matter of a few seconds,” said George Doughty, a former airport manager and former official at the Federal Aviation Administration. A passenger flat on the pavement could quickly be obscured by foam, he said, and “the risk of hitting a survivor is very real.” A passenger could even be drowned, he said.

Officials in San Francisco have not said whether the passenger, a 16-year-old Chinese girl, was still living at the time she was struck. Two other passengers on that Asiana flight were also killed.

Presuming that trucks reach a burning plane without mishap, there are other snap judgments to be made, firefighters said. For example, some trucks carry a boom with a tip resembling a giant hypodermic needle that can penetrate the fuselage and squirt the fire-suppressing foam. The most likely use is on a cargo plane, but they could be used on a passenger plane, perhaps even before firefighters are sure that all the passengers have gotten out. Firefighters are trained to punch a hole near the crown of the fuselage, avoiding the overhead luggage bins and entering at an angle to reduce the chance of spearing a passenger.

Quick action is essential, fire experts say, because modern planes like the Boeing 787 are increasingly made of carbon fiber, which burns faster than the traditional aluminum and produces more toxic smoke.

In big crashes, firefighters have to handle multiple levels of chaos. “There is an active fire, debris on the runway and persons evacuating the aircraft,” said Duane Kann, the fire chief at the Orlando airport. The driver might be alone, and the trucks have extra equipment, including a Forward-Looking Infra-Red camera, known as Flir, for finding fires in poor visibility.

“There’s the Flir, looking for hot spots, and he’s listening to the radio,” Chief Kann said. “There’s a lot of things happening in the cab of that vehicle.”

Airport firefighters are drilled on different models of airplanes and sometimes travel to distant airports to do so. Manufacturers like Boeing issue special instructions for each model and give the locations of critical items like batteries.

Firefighting strategies also differ by the size of the plane. Larger aircraft are usually taller, with longer evacuation slides, so firefighters are trained to park their trucks further away to avoid interference.

The F.A.A. requires fire equipment appropriate to the types of planes at an airport, but it does not specify staffing levels. In 2009, a United Nations aviation organization and the National Fire Protection Association began a campaign to impose such standards and require that crews be able to reach a crash scene in two minutes.

But a National Academy of Sciences panel that studied the idea said that it would cost $2.8 billion to set up and $1.3 billion a year thereafter. Reviewing government reports of accidents from January 1997 to December 2007, the study found that the tougher standards “may have made a difference in the outcome for at most one individual.”

Fire-Airports-AsianaThe philosophy at Logan is to be prepared for the worst but to respond proportionately. In January after an American Airlines MD-80 landed with a wheel on fire, the rescue crew, using thermal imaging and communicating with the cockpit crew over a special channel, persuaded the captain not to use the emergency chutes and to wait for a truck with attached stairs to pull up.

“We averted a needless evacuation,” said Robert J. Donahue Jr., the fire chief. Whenever the slides are used, he said, “at least 10 percent of the passenger load is going to be injured, some very seriously.”

The accidents do not have to be dramatic to require high-tech tools. Again, in January at Logan, a mechanic smelled smoke on a Japan Airlines 787 parked at a gate. Firefighters went quickly to the electronics bay, but it was so filled with smoke that they had to use a thermal imaging camera to find the source, a lithium-ion battery that had caught fire.

Much of the work of airport firefighters remains everyday calls. At the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Mich., Robert W. Benstein, the public safety and operations director, said that the firefighters were also emergency medical technicians.

“Seventy percent of our calls are probably medical-related,” Mr. Benstein said. “Somebody tips over luggage in the terminal, or spills hot coffee on themselves, or there’s a car accident.”

The San Francisco accident and Engine 3 notwithstanding, crashes at airports are still so rare that firefighters say they try to prepare themselves for the real thing by watching crash videos on YouTube.

Social Media Accessibility Toolkit: New from Emergency 2.0 Wiki

17 12 2012

idisaster 2.0

Post by: Kim Stephens

One question that inevitably comes up when discussing social media with emergency managers  is the problem of accessibility: Is the content on social media available to everyone in my community? In turn, community members with disabilities want access to content on social networks and want to use these tools during a crisis. Although there are answers about how best to address these concerns, before today, solutions were not in one handy location. That has changed with the launch of the Accessibility Toolkit on the Emergency 2.0 Wiki (full disclosure–I was involved with planning the launch of this site). The wiki is a voluntary initiative of the Gov 2.0 QLD Community of Practice in Australia, launched in December 2011.

The purpose of the toolkit is stated clearly on the site:

The Emergency 2.0 Wiki Accessibility Toolkit was developed to empower people with disabilities to use social media for…

View original post 472 more words

2011 – Year of Record Heat and Record Drought

2 01 2012

The National Weather Service indicated today that 2011 was the hottest year on record for the City of Houston;  tying with the year 1962.  The average temperature for the City of Houston, at Bush Intercontinental Airport, was 71.9 degrees in both years.  Though we did not have much threat from tropical storm systems, those in the Houston region put up with weather conditions that were very hot, very dry, and caused the potential for dangerous wildfires.  Celebrators on Independence Day and New Year’s Eve were restricted in the types of fireworks that could be used in an effort to reduce wildfires in the urban area. 

The National Weather Service indicates that the City of Houston recorded 24.57 inches of rain in 2011, making 2011 the third driest year on record.  Further, the National Weather Service indicated that the rainfall totals this year rival the normal rainfall values for some cities in west Texas; places such as Abilene and San Angelo.

1 12 2010

Road to Ready Internet Radio Show – Sharon Nalls

12 03 2009

logoroad-to-readyIf you get a chance tomorrow, please connect to the Road to Ready Internet Radio Show, hosted by Rick Tobin. This week’s topic is: Evacuation. This particular show will explore the challenges of evacuation when a threat requires people to move out of harms way. As noted by Tobin, evacuation is truly one of the most difficult challenges for both the public and the officials responsible for public safety. The special guest tomorrow is Sharon Nalls, CEM, Assistant Director/Emergency Management Coordinator for the City of Houston’s Office of Emergency Management. Sharon has been in her position since 2003, and being in the Houston area for much of her career, she has been very much involved in planning and response activities related to hurricanes and other disasters.

I have known Sharon for several years. She is not only an extremely competent Emergency Manager, but also very caring and compassionate. Sharon not only understands the “big picture,” she has the ability to communicate her views very succinctly and in a very professional manner. Sharon is on the top of my list when I need sage advice when dealing with problems and challenges. Currently, Sharon is serving as the President of the Emergency Management Association of Texas (EMAT).

To listen to the Road to Ready Show on Friday, March 13th, at 3:00 p.m. EASTERN TIME simply access the show at .