SAN ANTONIO - As Texas enters peak disaster season, emergency personnel from across the state have gathered in San Antonio to get on the same page.
"We have more major disasters than every other state in the nation," Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd told KVUE Wednesday. More than 2,500 people have gathered under his watch this week for 181 workshops and 174 exhibitors, part of the 2016 Texas Emergency Management Conference in San Antonio.
"We come together here this time of year in order to be able to make sure that we're staying up on the latest technology, the best and most promising practices for response and making sure that the first time we meet our partners is not on the scene of the incident, but actually got to know them ahead of time," said Kidd.
Time is of the essence. Texas is approaching peak wildfire season and another hurricane season begins June first. Other events are harder plan for.
Kidd explained, "So you take any hazardous materials incident anywhere that could cause an evacuation or a shelter in place order, any transportation accident that could cause us to have to evacuate a hospital or a nursing home or assisted living facility. Those don't have seasons. Those can happen every day of the year."
While the types of disasters facing a state the size of Texas may remain the same, the technology is constantly changing. Keith Sawyer, Western Regional Manager for Oregon-based FLIR Systems, showcased a DJI drone fitted with thermal imaging that can quickly and safely identify hotspots from 400 feet up.
"It's a manpower multiplier," said Sawyer.
While technology has made communicating easier, everyone still needs a plan to reconnect once things go south.
"Don't wait until the next disaster to try to figure out how to connect with your family members," said Kidd.
With the next crisis possible at any moment, he brought his command center with him.
"Absolutely live right now," said Kidd. "Just like it is 24 hours a day, seven days a week back in Austin, where our State Operations Center staff is monitoring weather, chemical threats, hazardous material threats, traffic information. All of that is going on right here except it's in the convention center in downtown San Antonio."
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