Weston Lakes Unveils Emergency Operations Center

21 03 2011

The following article comes from the Fort Bend Herald.  It was posted on Monday, March 21, 2011 and was written by Don Munsch.  The City of Weston Lakes has done a fantastic job in preparing its citizens for future emergencies.  Having the foresight to develop an Emergency Operations Center is a very proactive step and the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management looks forward to working with Mayor Zdunkewicz and Mayor Pro Tem Aldrich in future emergency preparedness efforts.  Reporter Don Munsch writes:

Weston Lakes may only be about three years old as an incorporated city, but city officials have created their own Emergency Operations Center should a crisis situation, such as a hurricane, arise and affect members of the community.  On Saturday, officials showed off that center to the public at an open house.

The center was set up at the Weston Lakes Country Club.  Visitors got to see to see the emergency center’s general operating procedures and conference stations. The center is activated when any risk-management situation threatens residents, said Linda Newsome Johnson, public information officer for the city of Weston Lakes.

“We would go into full operation during the emergency and or crisis,” she said, noting people would be at the emergency center until the crisis has passed.

Don Munsch / Fort Bend Herald Weston Lakes Mayor Pro Tem Cliff Aldrich, left, points out something on a computer during an open house for the city’s Emergency Operations Center Saturday at the Weston Lakes Country Club. Pictured here with Aldrich are Weston Lakes Mayor Mary Rose Zdunkewicz, city public information officer Linda Newsome Johnson and (sitting) volunteers Linda Harnist, left, and Sally Bayard.

Visitors saw how news about the crisis situation would be transmitted on computers stations, a PowerPoint screen and television in a room at the emergency center demonstration. Maps also would be available in times of emergencies.  A flow chart set up at the open house showed the chain of command for volunteers and city and local officials during an emergency.

Newsome Johnson said Saturday’s open house was an opportunity for volunteers to get familiar with the center and was “good test plan” for officials to see people work together.  “We’ve taken the proactive steps to be prepared in the event of emergency,” Newsome Johnson said. “Many of the cities do not have access to the Web Emergency Operations Center or are as prepared as we are to have our own EOC.”

Mayor Mary Rose Zdunkewicz heads up the Emergency Operations Center during an emergency and Mayor Pro Tem Cliff Aldrich serves as the incident commander. Volunteers on the Community Emergency Response Teams provide assistance and can use golf carts during emergencies.

“The incident command (leader) is making sure that all the information that goes out is credible information, and then, of course is released once the mayor has improved everything,” Newsome Johnson said. “Nothing goes out without the mayor’s statement or approval.”

Aldrich said he hoped visitors learned that the city is committed to ensuring that, in an emergency, officials will respond to their needs and provide some services. A generator can provide electricity.

“We were kind of lucky (during Hurricane Ike) – we only had three days (of no electricity),” he said. “You think about the people in Houston. They were out of electricity for three weeks or four weeks. That surely was not fun, because it wasn’t fun for three days.”

The country club’s main building will be set up as a place for people to stay a short time during a crisis, including if they are waiting to be transferred to a medical facility, but Aldrich said it is not a shelter.

Visitors who attended the open house could pick up a hurricane information guide and Fulshear-Simonton-Weston Lakes resource booklets.  Weston Lakes, with a population of 2,482 (2010 Census), contracts with the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office for police services and Fulshear-Simonton Fire Department for fire protection.

Weston Lakes Receives Three Donated Police Radios

28 01 2011

As reported in FortBendNow.com on January 26, 2011:

Weston Lakes’ emergency operations volunteers now have three new police-band radios thanks to a donation to the city from the 100 Club.  100 Club Executive Director Rick Hartley officially presented the radios to Weston Lakes City Marshal Ron Horowitz during Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Hartley said while most people identify the 100 Club with its efforts to assist the families of fallen police officers and firefighters, the organization is also dedicated to providing lifesaving equipment to emergency responders.

“We’re really honored to present these radios because it fits into what we’re all about,” Hartley told the council. “We try to be proactive in saving lives, not only assisting survivors of the fallen.”

Hartley noted the nonprofit had given some $11 million in protective and lifesaving equipment to emergency responders. The focus of the equipment donations is to agencies like Weston Lakes that have equipment needs but lack the funding to pay for those needs.

“We’re glad to do it; we know it will be well used,” Hartley said. “When Ron (Horowitz) called, it was a natural for what we do.

Hartley also took time to praise Horowitz, who also serves as Weston Lakes’ assistant emergency management coordinator.

“I’ve known the marshal for a long time; he’s a good man,” Hartley said.  Horowitz said the three radios – two portables and one base station – will be used as part of the city’s emergency operations center to provide communication during natural or man-made disasters.

Later in the council meeting, Mayor Pro-Tem Clifton Aldrich announced the city would hold an open house for its emergency operations center, which is housed in the Weston Lakes Country Club, on March 19. The public will be invited to join local elected officials and learn more about the city’s preparedness systems.

“We will have our EOC set up and have all the equipment there,” Aldrich said. “We are inviting everyone to come out, stay as long as they’d like and chat about our emergency management capabilities.”  Hours for the open house will be 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

When operational, the EOC will house three radio base stations – one for ham radio operators, a short-range radio system for local CERT teams and the newly-donated public safety radios. The center also includes cmputers, projectors and equipment to be used to coordinate operations during an emergency situation.

An emergency power generator is scheduled to be installed prior to the open house.  The equipment has been secured through grants or donations, such as the one from the 100 Club.  Aldrich also noted all emergency operations personnel are volunteers. There are currently more than 45 trained emergency volunteers in Weston Lakes.

(Photo: Weston Lakes City Marshal Ron Horowitz, left, accepts the donation of three police radios from 100 Club Executive Director Rick Hartley. The radio, two portables and a base station, will be used for the city’s emergency management operations.)

Weston Lakes Implements Door Tag System

1 08 2010

As reported on KTRK, Channel 13, on July 31, 2010:

In Fort Bend County, the city of Weston Lakes has a new way to protect people in emergency situations.  Each homeowner is receiving a door tag. On one side it says, ‘We’re OK.’ On the other side, it signals a need for help.  There are about 900 homes in Weston Lakes and many of them are retirees. If there’s a hurricane or another emergency situation, a small group of volunteers will go out and check on homeowners.

Weston Lakes Hears Report from Fulshear-Simonton Fire Chief

28 09 2009

John Pape from FortBendNow.com recently reported on fire protection matters in northwest Fort Bend County.  His article:

As it continues to finalize the city’s emergency preparedness plan, the Weston Lakes City Council has received a briefing on fire protection from Fulshear-Simonton Fire Chief Herc Meier.  The Fulshear-Simonton Fire Department, using a combination of paid and volunteer firefighters, provides fire and first-responder services to Weston Lakes, as well as the Fulshear-Simonton area, including the expansive Firethorne master-planned community.

With the explosive growth taking place in the Fulshear area and just south of Katy, the department is also growing to keep pace with all the new residents, Meier said.  “As we have grown, our budget has grown,” Meier said. “We will be opening our third fire station in Westheimer Lakes in February.”

Meier said the once all-volunteer department now supplements its staff with part-time paid firefighters to ensure 24-hour coverage. Most of the paid firefighters come from other area departments – including Richmond, Rosenberg, Missouri City and Sugar Land – on their days off.  Meier said the department now has a staff of about three dozen firefighters and responds to an average of three calls per day.

 “Keeping track of 36 firefighters is like herding cats,” Meier said, adding that 20 of them work on paid part-time basis while the remaining 16 are volunteers.  Today’s staffing is a dramatic change from the department’s humble beginnings, the chief explained.   The department was initially organized in 1962 with one used fire truck from Rosenberg.  The department fell into a state of disorder for a period of time until an arsonist struck the area in 1974, setting fire to a number of hay barns.

 “That was quite devastating for the ranches in the area,” Meier said.  The department was then re-organized, but finances remained lean. Meier recalled times when firefighters were forced to buy fuel for the fire truck out of their own pockets.  “We lived kind of hand-to-mouth,” he said.

In 1983, the department needed to build a new permanent fire station. At that time, the Fort Bend Rural Fire Prevention District No. 1 was created to provide a tax base to support departmental operations.  “We went out and campaigned for this,” Meier recalled.

The fire district covers the portion of Fort Bend County from The Grand Parkway on the east to the Brazos River on the west, and from the county line to the north to the Brazos River on the south. Today, the fire department responds to about 900 calls every year.  Even as the department prepares to open its third station, initial planning for a fourth in Firethorne has begun.  That station, however, remains several years away.

“We’re just starting to talk with their architect,” Meier said. “I’d love to have a fire station out there yesterday.”

Meier also praised the extensive emergency planning Weston Lakes has undertaken to make the city less vulnerable to natural or man-made disasters. He said he hoped the city “will never have to really appreciate” the extensive plan it is putting in place.

He also said even though the department now serves three municipalities following Weston Lakes’ incorporation last year, adding the new city’s name to the department would be a problem.  Herc Meier, Fire Chief, Fulshear-Simonton Fire Dept“We’d like to put Weston Lakes in our name along with Fulshear and Simonton, but we’ve already got most of the alphabet covered,” Meier joked.