It was a year ago – Sept. 13, 2008 – when Hurricane Ike made landfall in Galveston, causing billions of dollars in damage and weeks of heat-filled misery for millions of southeast Texas residents who were left without electricity. Many even lost their lives to the storm.
But a year later, emergency officials, including officials at Lone Star College System, are now better prepared.
“We held debriefings” after last year’s hurricane, said Dr. Denise Walker, Chief Security Officer for LSCS. “At that time, we discussed lessons learned, what went well, and where we have opportunities for improvements.
“It gave us the opportunity to solidify our teams on each campus,” Walker said. “We now continue to update these teams on a regular basis.”
Walker explained that LSCS has invested in a number of improvements since last year to become better prepared for emergencies, including investments in technology and training.
“We established a dispatch center and invested in the new technology to make that happen,” she said.
The college system follows state of Texas protocol for emergency management and Walker is a member of the Harris County Office of Emergency Management as a Public Information Officer, which allows LSCS to leverage this communication connection when emergency messages or advisories are needed.
In addition, messages – in English and Spanish – are prepared well in advance of anticipated emergencies and can now be issued at the push of a button.
Currently, Walker said, training has migrated from hurricanes and severe weather-related issues to pandemic planning, such as issues related to the H1N1 virus.
“We have a pandemic plan in place,” she said. “We have established a very close relationship with the Texas Department of State Health Services and Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services.”
Another aspect of recent training at LSCS is a partnership with the Houston Fire Department to provide fire warden training for those identified as “fire wardens and buddies” at all locations throughout the college system, she said.
In the event of an emergency, like a major storm or flood, students and the public can turn to the LSCS Web site at LoneStar.edu for information. For routine preventative information, visit LoneStar.edu/chief-security.htm.
Lone Star College System consists of five colleges including LSC-CyFair, LSC-Kingwood, LSC-Montgomery, LSC-North Harris, and LSC-Tomball, six centers, LSC-University Center, LSC-University Park, Lone Star Corporate College, and LSC-Online. With more than 58,000 students in credit classes this fall, LSCS is the largest institution of higher education in the Houston area and third largest community college system in Texas. To learn more visit LoneStar.edu.