Galveston Recognized for Disaster Readiness

The city of Galveston is serving as a national model for disaster readiness and preparation. As Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports, the National Council of Readiness and Preparedness came to Galveston to learn from the island's procedures and recognize the city's leadership.

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First responders from all over the Southwest met in Galveston to discuss homeland security and disaster preparations. Jim Gilmore, the former governor of Virginia, is the chairman of the National Council of Readiness and Preparedness, or NCORP. He says the held the security summit in Galveston because of the success of Galveston's disaster plans and the leadership of people like Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas.

"We're honored to be able to learn everything that she and her community have done. And now the national council gives an opportunity for that to be projected out into the life of the nation and that of course is our goal."

NCORP is collecting a list of best practices from Galveston and other cities, to put together what they're calling a National Blueprint for Secure Communities. Mayor Thomas says the island's plans for evacuation and for tracking special needs citizens through a community response team will be incorporated into the national blueprint.

"I'm not only pleased to know that what we did in Galveston during the Rita event has caught the attention of Governor Gilmore and NCORP, but I'm particularly glad to know that the entire country hopefully will be able to learn some of the lessons that we learned."

Thomas will join Gilmore in Washington D.C. this summer to help draft the blueprint. NCORP will select five communities to pilot and test the list of best practices. Gilmore says they're drafting plans for every known contingency, from evacuations to communication with the media to supplies and the return of residents to their communities.

"There is a sometimes an erroneous idea, particularly in Washington D.C., that no matter where the catastrophe occurs or what kind of terrorist attack should occur anywhere in the country that immediately the federal authorities are going to swoop in. This is not true. What is true is that if there is ever a catastrophe, it is the local response communities in the community that must respond and be prepared to cope with these issues in the first 72 hours. Our blueprint is going to be designed to emphasize that point."

NCORP is a non-profit organization and will be offering the blueprint to communities as a public service. Gilmore says no one has to follow the plan, but it just makes sense to have all these ideas and scenarios in one place ready to be implemented at any time. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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