Throughout the years, city of Waxahachie officials and Ellis County officials have partnered together on community projects and assisted each other during times of need.
With the city of Waxahachie working to enact its own emergency management plan, sperate from the county's, Waxahachie Mayor Kevin Strength wants residents to know the relationship formed with the county will still play an important role to help residents in a time of crisis. City officials were expected to vote on the new plan Monday at a regularly scheduled council meeting, after press time.
The city council established the Office of Emergency Management in 1981. This allowed the mayor to enter into a multi-jurisdictional emergency management program with the county. Through this program, emergency management duties are administered by the county judge and coordinated by a county employee.
Throughout the years, the county has aided the city during several large-scale emergencies such as the Magnablend chemical plant fire in 2011, the 2011 downtown fire and damage from an EF-3 tornado on Dec. 26, 2015.
“When the Magnablend fire happened, county judge Carol Bush was right out there. Other people from the county were there also. I think that anytime, regardless of whether we are going to do this (coordinate resources) by ourselves, when you have a community like Ellis County, people are going to work together and pull together and support each other,” City Manager Paul Stevens said. “I think that the tornado is a prime example of that. It wasn’t in our city, and was not in a lot of other cities, but people jumped in and helped.”
Stevens said city officials are truly appreciative of the support received from the county in the past. The new plan will help to lighten responsibilities from the county and help the city be a little bit more prepared when an emergency happens. The new plan spreads out the duties of emergency management operations to several people instead of just one.
“The fire marshal used to be in control of emergency management, but his role is expanding, so it gets to be overwhelming for one person. We saw the need to split it up into different department heads, where they take one section of it,” Mayor Kevin Strength said. “It is not because the county was not doing a good job. We have come to the level where we really need to know what our resources are, basically, so Paul can use our resources to know what he's got and has a plan for it for everybody that calls us also.”
Strength said bringing the emergency management plan in house helps to aid the county judge because when Bush calls Stevens to ask how they can help, Stevens can tell the judge what resources he has and what he needs.
The city’s plan is structured into three tiers: The Basic Plan, its supporting annexes and department level standard operating procedures and guidelines. Each annex describes how a different function of emergency management will be operated by the city. For example, the shelter and mass care annex describes how efforts are coordinated with volunteer organizations such as the American Red Cross to provide shelter to groups of people. Some of the other topics covered include communications, evacuation, firefighting, law enforcement, heath and medical services, public information, resource management and search and rescue.
Stevens said the city would still be asking its neighbors for help if a need arose. Currently, the city is a part of the Ellis Dallas Unified Cooperative Team. This team pools its resources to help others during times of emergencies and includes drawing on the county for help in times of need.
“We are city of almost 34,000 people. It makes sense when we get to a size like this that we need to be able be the ones who are going to say we are going to handle our emergency management procedures,” Stevens said. “We have gone through several emergencies and are truly appreciative of the support that we have got. I think that it is a step in our progression as a city as a growth of a city.”
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