Emergency Management Director Jeff Kelley told Orange County Commissioners they were working on many changes required by the state, most relating to hurricane season, some spanning back over several years.

The main change is in the 211 registry system used to assist folks in time of evacuation in large scale disasters.

“Here in Southeast Texas, we came up with our own system; our own database if you will that manages that information. It works quite well and has been used as a model across the country,” said Kelley. He said a number of changes coming up this hurricane season are not necessarily positive for us, this being one of them.

“The state is completely overhauling and changing how they gather that data and what data they gather.”

He said the changes will have compatibility issues with our current system and it will cause their workload to quadruple because instead of managing the database as Orange County does, the state will purge the system and require the databases to be rebuilt from scratch each year.

“You’re going to have to call the same people over and over every year,” said Thibodeaux.

Kelley said that was correct. “You are going to have to reinvent the wheel every year,” he said.

“Erin does a fantastic job of working with us and keeping that system updated. She’s developed a relationship with those people over the phone through the years. They know who it is when she calls if they have been on there a year or so. This may change all that. It’s going to have an adverse effect on that for sure,” said Kelley

He said the other big change is previously the state was targeting families and individuals that needed assistance, now they will be registering facilities.

“When we cross that line and start registering facilities and including them in the system, it’s good in theory, but I’m afraid it’s going to promote the thought that they can rely on us for their evacuation needs,” said Kelley.

“And they can’t,” added Thibodeaux

Kelley said “I’m seriously concerned about that. We’re going to be working on it the coming months and some other issues.”

He said they also used the state contracted deaf link for evacuees that are hearing impaired.

“We no longer have that tool at our disposal unless we contract it individually and that is cost prohibitive for any single county.”

Kelley said they have to overhaul every written plan in their office to make sure they are compliant with new politically correct language as it applies to individuals they try to help. He said they will probably not be approved next year without updating and is trying to get ahead of the problem.

“In the state’s defense, I think they are trying to solve a whole bunch of problems statewide, rather than recognizing best practices and leaving them alone. I understand that you can’t have incompatible systems out there…we would have been a lot better, left alone and allowed to do our own thing how we’ve been doing it. When it gets a little closer to hurricane season I’m going to give you a report on our preparedness level and some things we’ve got going on.”


About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.