February 18, 2021

Thank You, Bellaire Emergency Response Team!

They’ve got their own problems to deal with like everyone else, but they’re always there for us, especially in times like these when we need them most.  We’re often quick to think of our first responders in Police and Fire, but emergency response also involves personnel from other city departments who have been hard at work, many of them behind the scenes, doing everything they can to help us through this terrible ordeal.  We’re lucky to have them and appreciate all they do for us.

This severe winter weather incident response has been unique in a lot of ways.  The Emergency Operations Center itself is well equipped to stay up and running, but doing so in the middle of a pandemic has presented a different set of challenges.  Personnel working remotely from home have been in the same position as the rest of us, struggling to keep their devices charged and connected, not to mention keeping themselves and their families safe and warm.  But they’ve got a job to do and they’ve found ways to get it done.

The statewide electricity system failure that left millions in the dark and suffering through extreme cold was entirely beyond the City’s control, but this incident response has been about taking care of people as best we can.  Police officers have been out conducting welfare checks, often following calls from concerned family members who have been unable to reach some our more vulnerable residents.  Dispatchers also made contact with everyone on our STEAR (State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry) list, and sent officers to check on a few who could not be reached.  Both Police and Fire have been responding to calls for service; when temperatures were at their coldest Fire saw an uptick in carbon monoxide and medical alarms, in addition to the more routine fire and EMS calls.

As reflected in our messaging throughout this event, Public Works has been exceptionally busy out in the field.  Early on they were investigating and addressing various water supply issues and checking on reported main breaks (none were found).  Their attention was then diverted to our water production facilities as things got worse, culminating in a loss of pressure and resulting boil water notice, which is still in effect.  Other jurisdictions across the Houston area have been dealing with all the same problems.  Our crews have worked around the clock to restore service completely, and we’re now pretty much back to fully operational barring any unforeseen setbacks.  (For a more detailed recap, see this event timeline published by the City last night.)

There are numerous emergency response functions that are performed behind the scenes, in support of those out in the field.  They’ve also been in constant communication and coordination with state and county emergency management agencies, and other entities including CenterPoint.  These roles in our incident command structure are filled by city employees from several departments, not always directly tied to their regular jobs but for which they train as a team throughout the year.  Most of them are working this event remotely per COVID-19 protocols, but of those who are there in person, many have not been home to their families since the EOC was activated on Sunday.

We’ve always known one of the greatest advantages of living in Bellaire is being able to count on the public safety, public works and other professionals who are there for us when we need them.  It’s my privilege to highlight for you some of the important, indeed lifesaving work they’re doing, that you might not otherwise see.  Even as we’re all frustrated and fed up with this awful situation, let’s not forget our emergency response personnel—and their families—and express our thanks to all of them for their selfless sacrifices in service to us.