MIDLOTHIAN — Just as their brethren have done, emergency dispatchers from Midlothian are now answering the call to aid first responders and residents in south Texas that have been affected by Hurricane Harvey.
The two-person team of Christine Thompson and Nathan Alvarez left Midlothian on Monday to serve in the City of Rockport.
“We have three members that are a part of the Telecommunications Emergency Response Team. That is a group that is operated by the North Central Texas Council of Governments. They volunteer to be deployed in a natural disaster or any other appropriate circumstance,” Midlothian Police Chief Kevin Johnson said. "Following the hurricane hitting, they put that group on stand by. When they got that first request, they sent the team to Rockport.”
According to a statement issued by Rockport Mayor Charles Wax, about 30-40 percent of the houses and buildings in Rockport are completely destroyed. Another 30 percent are substandard and cannot be rebuilt.
“There are approximately 2000 electric workers in the city. They’re fixing power lines, traffic lights, and other infrastructure so we will be able to ‘join the grid’ once AEP is able to transmit to Rockport,” Wax stated on Aug. 28. “The company started in Corpus Christi and has restored more than 80 percent of the power. They are moving north and inroads are being made in Portland.”
Wax added that there has been no widespread looting or mass casualties. There has been just one death reported, which happened the day of the storm and was the result of a fire.
“We’re sorry for the loss of any life, but take comfort in knowing how fortunate we all were during this catastrophic event,” Wax explained. “While there have been some injuries — the most severe include a broken leg and two, stress-related cardiac issues — none of them life threatening.”
According to Johnson, the dispatchers have two different assignments. The first is by assisting the Texas Department of Public Safety at its emergency operations command. The second is at the Aransas Public Safety Communications Center taking calls and dispatching first responders.
"We get daily updates from their team leader down there. When they arrived, they put them up in what they call a service center. They have their lodging, food and cots there,” Johnson stated. “They are working in 12-hour shifts with one on and one off.”
Johnson added that on the first day, Wednesday; Thompson and Alvarez took calls that consisted of stray animal, looting, welfare concerns and people trying to make donations. On the second day, Thursday, Thompson and Alvarez spent part of the day repairing and testing radio channels to get them back operational in addition to dispatching.
“I have seen pictures of their (communication) towers. They are just broken and laying on top of buildings. Their commutations infrastructure was essentially destroyed by the storm,” Johnson said. “They have slowly been rebuilding it trying to regain that communications capability.”
Johnson added that the Midlothian Police Department is looking to send some additional resources shortly. The department’s emergency manager Capt. John Spann has been placed on standby to possibly assist with some local efforts.
“He has been put on stand by to work in Fort Worth at the emergency operations center. What they have been tasked with is preparing and standing up some of the shelters that are going up in the DFW area,” Johnson stated. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they would ask for some of our big trucks and high clearance vehicles.”
He added that he is proud of the efforts given by so many to help people in need in south Texas.
“This particular experience speaks to the value of having those type of trained response teams that are deployable on short notice,” Johnson noted.