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Sirens overhead – A look at Texas City’s emergency notification systems

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By Travis Gumphrey

SIRENS ARE a familiar sound every Wednesday at noon in Texas City.
There usually isn’t an emergency, but city emergency manager Derek Duckett wants the public to know what to do if there is one.
“The sirens are used in conjunction with our emergency notification system,” he said. “We do not always use the sirens for every incident, but we will always use the emergency notification system.”
Duckett said that when the sirens sound, emergency notifications will go out simultaneously to give more detail as to what the incident is and what citizens should do.
When the sirens, left, sound, the public should tune to 530 AM radio for current information on the emergency, or tune to channel 16 on their cable television stations for the most current information as it becomes available. The public is also encouraged to use any major television station in the Houston area for updates. Emergency situations are constantly changing and up-to-date information can be obtained by using these stations as they often have live broadcasts of emergency events.
Additionally, a telephone ring-down system alerts the public at home with a recorded message of emergencies. According to the city’s emergency management website, about 2,600 homes may be notified in less than ten minutes.
“We really encourage every citizen to sign up for the notifications,” Duckett said. “Every phone of every family member, emails, texts and our social media sites.”
He said that citizens can sign up for the notifications by going online to texas-city-tx.org and clicking on the Emergency Notifications button or by calling the city at 409-948-3111 and providing their information.
“The information is not shared or used for any other purpose,” he said.
The emergency siren system consists of 16 siren alerts in Texas City and La Marque. Dangers may be a chemical spill, accidental chemical release or weather related situations like tornadoes.
There are four levels of incident management and response that the public should be aware of.
Level I is when an incident has occurred and can be controlled by facility personnel. The situation is under control in Level I.
Level II is when an incident has occurred and the situation is not under control but it is confined. These incidences are confined to a small area or to a fixed-site and do not pose threats of spreading to a larger area or off-site.
Level III is an incident that is not under control and protective action may be necessary for the surrounding or offsite areas. The emergency operations center is then activated, the siren warning is given to the public, and radio and television stations begin status updates on the situation.
Level IV is when an incident has a occurred and the situation is not under control. Actions by more than first responders or facility personnel are necessary. Level IV situations are usually incidents involving a severe hazard or a large area which poses an extreme threat to life and property and will probably require an evacuation; or an incident requiring the expertise and resources of outside agencies.
The emergency operations center is activated when the mayor deems it necessary or a level III incident occurs. All necessary resources meet in the EOC to manage resources and assist the public and to manage the situation by deploying personnel to areas that need aid.
The sirens come in a high-low tone and is a signal that residents should go indoors and find shelter until the all-clear is given. While indoors citizens should shut all windows and doors, turn off the air conditioning, stay off the telephone and stay tuned to a news source for information.
The all-clear siren is a single continuous tone.
Currently, the city is in the process of replacing the siren system as the current is nearing the end of its life expectancy.
The current system will stay in place until new options are put in. Residents will be informed any changes made to the system as they occur to better keep the public informed and safe.

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