Story and photos by Edward Rivera
Fort Worth District Public Affairs
Throughout the summer, Fort Worth District’s Emergency Management Office team members have been visiting many lake projects hosting exercises to foster understanding and communication between our decision making partners during significant weather events.
The table-top exercises allow the District to use their Emergency Action Plans which identify risk and potential hazards, ensure public understanding via local and state emergency management entities of benefits and risk of our flood risk mitigation projects.
“The EAP is an extremely important, and formal, document we use to identify and communicate risk to our downstream emergency management partners,” said Jeff Mahaffey, deputy chief, Emergency Management. “We focus on response planning and hazard mitigation to ultimately save lives and protect property.”
In addition to exercising the individual projects EAPs, the annual meetings allow for emergency management and water supply partners, first responders and other agencies and entities affected by flooding to communicate with each other while seeing how their response plans will interact.
“The exercises also afford us the opportunity to explain U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operations during significant weather events,” said Mahaffey. “We also examine the decision making process on how we capture and retain flood waters and make project releases based on downstream channel capacity. And if signs of project distress exist, how we and our partners responds.”
The biggest take away from the exercises is ensuring the Corps educates and communicates with all affected partners and stakeholders know the how and why the multipurpose projects exist in their communities. “It is or great importance everyone involved understand the benefits, risks, and consequences of our project sites, and how to respond to an emergency situation,” said Mahaffey.
Tom Webb, superintendent, Piney Woods Hydropower Business Line Manager said, the exercise was an excellent opportunity to communicate and collaborate with all stakeholders and downstream city and county governments on the importance of having emergency action plans in place. “For some, this exercise was an eye-opener for them and they were really grateful that we had this exercise,” said Webb.
Exercises like these hosted by the District and its partners is a great opportunity for all involved to get to know each other and develop working relationships prior to any event taking place.
“The exercise presented a great opportunity to meet with local emergency managers and stake holders to discuss response and needs during a flood related incident in our region,” said Bart Dearborn, Sam Rayburn Lake manager. “The recent flooding in our region over the last two years has demonstrated a need for this type of exercise and for our preparedness.”