While every community prays it never has to face a disaster, it happens. From floods and tornadoes to fires to even shootings — when the unexpected takes place it’s someone’s job to be ready.
In New Braunfels, that someone is Andy Cardiel and the rest of New Braunfels’ Office of Emergency Management.
“We create an event action plan so we have everything in place, from crowd control to which routes EMS would take in severe weather conditions,” Cardiel said.
The management team has a primary meeting location and backup location in case of emergency, which is set to work as headquarters for emergency staff personnel to check in.
“The work we do is invisible, which is a good thing, but a lot of planning goes into it,” Cardiel said.
It starts with a threat analysis — looking at which potential disasters pose the most realistic threat to New Braunfels, Cardiel said.
“For New Braunfels, it’s actually flash flooding,” Cardiel said. “And we’ve seen some pretty bad ones in the past.”
Being in Flood Alley means during any heavy rainfall, the streets could potentially be transformed into streams, and there are also threats for high winds and tornadoes.
“We have so many festivals a year, we also have to be ready for man-made disasters from fires to active shooter scenarios,” Cardiel said. “It’s not always weather we have to be ready for.”
Knowing risks is part of the job, as is monitoring all emergency feeds and being aware of all activities at schools and large meetings, Cardiel said.
“I meet regularly with the emergency coordinators of Comal and New Braunfels ISDs,” Cardiel said. “We also meet regularly with folks from the county, state, related private organizations.”
A lot of people moving into the New Braunfels area are from out of state and aren’t used to floods, Cardiel said.
“They might come from California, where there’s wildfires, or Florida, where there’s hurricanes, but they may not know ‘turn around, don’t drown’ if they’re not familiar with being in Flood Alley,” Cardiel said.
The city has eight emergency sirens around town that can be used to warn residents of emergencies.
“We also utilize social media as a tool, and it’s really great at getting word out quickly,” Cardiel said.
That doesn’t always work with older populations, so the office works with retirement homes around town that have their own plans for emergencies, Cardiel said.
Danger arises when people don’t take warnings seriously.
“They might think, ‘It’ll never actually happen to me,’ or, ‘I’ve lived here so long and that’s never happened,’ which is definitely the wrong mindset to have,” Cardiel said.
Poor planning costs lives, Cardiel said.
“We do exercises regularly and once a year we do a full run-through of different emergency scenarios,” Cardiel said.
As times change, so do threats — a huge threat that wasn’t big 20 years ago is now ransomware, in which criminals take control of computers.
After four major shooting events in Texas this year alone, Gov. Greg Abbott is pushing emergency offices to put together active shooting exercises, Cardiel added.
“We can’t believe we’re immune,” Cardiel added.
For more information on the Office of Emergency Management, or to check for alerts, visit www.nbtexas.org/1165/Emergency-Management.