Preparing for emergencies
By Tony Farkas
COLDSPRING — Emmitt Eldridge is there to help, and in more ways than one.
Eldridge, who currently serves as chief of the Coldspring Fire Department, was named Emergency Management coordinator for San Jacinto County three weeks ago as former director Judy Eaton retired.
Eldridge will continue to be the Coldspring Fire Chief, a position he said prepared him for his new role, as people in this position tend to have a background in fire or EMS.
That role, he said, is to help the county prepare for any type of emergency situation, whether it’s man-made, natural or even nuclear.
“We do training, then make sure that the county has resources and shelters in place,” he said. “I then coordinate with commanders of any situation to ensure they have the necessary resources as well. Then we work toward getting the county back to normal.
“We help residents find funding to replace homes after a hurricane or get cleaning supplies to help after a flood,” he said.
OEM coordinates with Red Cross, Texas A&M AgriLife, Trinity River Authority, local fire departments, the Sheriff’s Office, TxDOT and more to get help where it’s needed, Eldridge said. For instance, his office was the leaders in making sure that county residents had ample supply of clean drinking water during the COVID pandemic; and in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, given that San Jacinto County had some of the highest amount of damage in the state, the OEM lent its assistance and expertise in recovery.
Eldridge said that as coordinator, he plans to respond to more emergencies to provide support. Additionally, the county has a
HAZMAT trailer that hasn’t been used in years that he plans to get up and running.
He also plans to improve emergency notifications to county residents.
“We currently use Facebook as our main notification outlet, but the county does have a text messaging system that needs to be used,” he said.
Also, he plans to push a program call STEAR — State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry — which will be primarily used for disabled, medically fragile or other functional limitations. The county will maintain this list, and in the event of an emergency, emergency response personnel will know where people are and what assistance or resources they need.
“We have zero people on the program,” he said. “Our county is a member, but we need people to sign up.”
Eldridge said he is currently working on updating wildfire mitigation and hazardous material response, and in the future, will do more training and education, particularly in the schools.
To sign up for the STEAR program, visit Steer.tdem.texas.gov or call 211.
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