The Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management released a report on Monday reviewing the county’s response to Hurricane Harvey.
The report was completed over three months and identifies the strengths and weaknesses of the county’s response to the historic storm—which dropped one trillion gallons of water across Harris County between Aug. 25-29, flooding more than 120,000 structures in the county.
The report also identifies ways the county can address its weaknesses in order to be better prepared to respond to future crises.
One of the strengths identified in the report is the coordination between county, state and federal agencies during the initial response to the storm, which allowed agencies to quickly respond and support organizations.
Another strength was related to the past experience first responders within the county had with flooding incidents. According to the report, many first responders within the county had previous experience responding to flooding incidents, such as the flood on Memorial Day in 2015. This prior experience ensured first responders understood the importance of accurately responding and documenting their operations during Harvey.
However, because of the scope of the storm, the report also acknowledges that some county employees that participated in water rescues had not previously been provided with any training for such activities. The report recommends identifying all agencies and departments that support search and rescue operations and providing those department members with floodwater response and swift water rescue training.
Another area highlighted for needing improvement had to do with the complications that arose when important, time-sensitive information was not released to the public quickly enough, or when partner agencies were not briefed on information, which caused confusion and conflicting messaging, according to the report.
To address this concern the report recommends ensuring that partner messages undergo the same process that all county messages undergo before going to the public. The report also recommends having public information officers from partner agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps. Of Engineers provide accurate and timely information to all agencies.
In a letter accompanying the report Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said many of the lessons outlined are already in place, and the county is working to identify the next steps to take.
“Hurricane Harvey’s test of our flood response plans highlighted remarkable successes and areas for improvement,” Emmett said. “Applying those lessons learned will certainly make us better prepared for the next disaster.”
Read the full report below.