AUSTIN (Nexstar) — As North Texans prepared for severe weather and heeded Tornado Warnings Monday night, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a familiar directive.
“The State of Texas has resources ready for swift deployment, and we are fully prepared to address any potential severe weather expected to impact communities across our state,” the governor announced Monday afternoon. “I thank all of our emergency response personnel who are working around the clock to protect their fellow Texans this holiday season.”
The announcement is one of more than 30 instances just this year in which Abbott has “activated state resources,” “increased readiness levels,” or “directed immediate assistance” to areas in need. The levers behind such moves involve a statewide web of first responders and interagency coordination that can connect Texans with help before and after disaster strikes.
“The governor has a large toolbox when it comes to response in the state of Texas,” said Jeff Saunders, the director of the Texas A&M Task Force 1. “The good news is we practice a lot because this state is generally under some type of disaster declaration for large events.”
Saunders’ task force is among the first to answer nearly every call for assistance.
“We’re the A-team,” he said.
He leads a team of more than 250 firefighters, doctors, search and rescue canines, and other elite first responders who team up with local agencies in need. This week, a team of 35 task force members specially trained in building stabilization deployed to North Texas for tornadoes.
“We want to make sure that we’re a benefit to the local first responders that are on scene,’ Saunders said. “We bring a whole bunch more people in with those skills, as well as a large component of specialized equipment that helps us helps us to do exactly what’s needed.”
The Texas Department of Emergency Management is asking Texans who experienced significant damage to report it to them. They direct people in need to their Independent State of Texas Assessment Tool – iSTAT – to alert their department of urgent recovery needs.
The department uses self-reported damage assessments to connect Texans with state resources and determine whether an event meets the cost threshold to request federal aid.
You can access the tool at damage.tdem.texas.gov.