Usually a new employee has the chance to settle in.
Because of the recent winter weather, Jack Snow, Johnson County’s new emergency management coordinator, did not have that opportunity.
“When I walked in the door, it was harrowing for the first few days just trying to figure out what was going on,” he said. “It was my second or third day when there were tornado watches, so I didn’t get much chance to relax and get ready, but I have received help from a lot of people.”
Snow, a former Crowley police officer and criminal investigator with the Texas Attorney General’s office, received most of his training and experience in the Texas State Guard.
As a staff sergeant with the 4th Regiment, 7th Battalion, of the Texas State Guard based in Fort Worth, he was deployed four times to help with the aftermath of hurricanes Dean, Dolly, Ike and Gustav.
He said guard members receive training from FEMA and the American Red Cross that is similar to the training first responders receive.
“The main mission of the Texas State Guard is shelter management,” he said. “The mission is always evolving. It’s always changing.”
Snow said that with his experience, he helped write the training manual on shelter management for the 4th Regiment.
“It is basically shelter management for boots on the ground,” he said. “The actual hands on running the shelter stuff.”
Snow said this experience piqued his interest in emergency management, and when a friend told him about the Johnson County opening, he decided to take a shot at it.
“I’m glad they hired me,” he said. “I wasn’t exactly expecting it.”
Snow said Johnson County Judge Roger Harmon was interested in his 18 years in law enforcement and his leadership abilities as a company first sergeant in the guard.
“I’ve come in here, and I’m learning. So far, it has been a good experience,” he said. “We’ve got a good start. My staff, Brenda Campbell and Diana Esparza, are doing a great job.”
He said his job description as coordinator is hard to explain.
“My job is not to be out there fighting fires. My job is to assist the fire department,” he said. “I go out and ask them, ‘What do you need in the way of resources?’ ”
Using the example of a brush fire, Snow said his job would be to contact the state to obtain help if local resources are overwhelmed and act as a liaison between the county judge and the different resources.
“We have an emergency plan,” he said. “My job from this point forward is to plan and update it to make sure that we are up to date on it because resources change.”
Snow said another part of his job is to work closely with the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army should residents need their assistance.
“Those people are the best resources there are,” he said. “They have been around forever. They know how to do this.”
Preparing for storm season
Snow said that if the weather Johnson County residents experienced recently is any indication, the spring weather will be a challenge.
“We prepare like we are always going to have a bad spring. We are prepared like something will happen tomorrow. That’s what we prepare for, and then hope they won’t have to use us,” he said. “My biggest hope is that I never have to go out and do anything. However, we prepare for it.”
Snow said he will rely on his 36 Skywarn volunteers, law enforcement officers and the National Weather Service to give him the information he needs on approaching storms.
When threatening weather approaches, he said, he phones the Skywarn personnel and leaves a voice message advising them of the situation.
Then he gives instructions on what actions to take, whether to deploy or to be prepared for whatever the situation may dictate.
“The guys who are in Skywarn are very dedicated people. They love doing this, and they love helping out their fellow citizens,” he said. “We couldn’t do this job and couldn’t take care of the state of Texas without volunteers. These guys are extremely important. These guys have really helped me out a lot and I really appreciate what they’ve done”
A new Emergency
Snow said he hopes the new 4,000 square foot, storm-proof, self-sustaining Emergency Operations Center will be on line for spring 2011.
The center will be located west of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office administration building and will include a communications room equipped with police, fire and ham radios.
Although details need to be worked out, Snow said the EOC will eventually handle police, fire and EMS dispatching duties.
“I think that it is something that the citizens of Johnson County can be proud of,” he said. “It is something that will benefit every citizen of the county.”
Several kinds of watches and warnings are issued by the National Weather Service.
A tornado watch means tornadoes are possible in the area and residents should remain alert for approaching storms. Counties in the watch areaare broadcast on NOAA weather radio and local radiotelevision outlets.
A severe thunderstorm watch tells when and where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur. Residents should watch the sky and stay tuned to local broadcasts to know when warnings are issued.
A tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.
A severe thunderstorm warning is issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm.
Lightning safety rules
Weather experts recommend postponing outdoor activities if thunderstorms are imminent. This is the best way to avoid being caught in a dangerous situation.
zx Move to a sturdy building or car. Do not take shelter in small sheds, under isolated trees, or in convertible automobiles. Stay away from tall objects such as towers, fences, telephone poles, and power lines.
zx If lightning is occurring and a sturdy shelter is not available, get inside a hard top automobile and keep the windows up. Avoid touching any metal.
zx Utility lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Unplug appliances not necessary for obtaining weather information. Avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances. Use phones only in an emergency.
zx Do not take a bath or shower during a thunderstorm. Turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can cause serious damage.
zx If caught outdoors and no shelter is nearby, find a low spot away from trees, fences, and poles. Make sure the place chosen is not subject to flooding.
zx In the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees.
zx People who feel their skin tingle or hair stand on end should squat low to the ground on the balls of their feet., place their hands over the ears, and put their head between their knees. Make the smallest target possible and minimize contact with the ground. Do not lie down.
zx When boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter immediately.
zx Those hearing thunder are close enough to be struck by lightning.
Tornado safety rules
zx In a home or building, move to a pre-designated shelter, such as a basement.
zx If an underground shelter is not available, move to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and get under a sturdy piece of furniture. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.
zx Stay away from windows.
zx Get out of automobiles.
zx Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car. Leave it immediately for safe shelter.
zx If caught outside or in a vehicle, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands.
zx Be aware of flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.
zx Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes. Officials recommend leaving a mobile home and going to the lowest floor of a sturdy nearby building or a storm shelter.
zx Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that advance warning is not possible. Remain alert for signs of an approaching tornado such as a dark, often greenish sky, large hail, or a loud roar similar to a freight train.
Flash flood tips
zx Flash floods are sometimes associated with storms that produce lightning and tornadoes.
zx Flash floods and floods are the primary cause of deaths associated with thunderstorms — more than 140 fatalities each year.
zx Most flash flood fatalities occur at night and most victims are people who become trapped in automobiles.
zx Six inches of fast-moving water can knock peopke off their feet; a depth of two feet will cause most vehicles to float. Avoid walking, swimming, or driving in flood waters.
zx Stay away from high water, storm drains, ditches, ravines, or culverts. If it is moving swiftly, even water six inches deep can knock a person off their feet.
zx When encountering flood waters, stop, turn around, and go another way. Climb to higher ground.
zx Do not let children play near storm drains.
Prepare for storm season
Snow recommends that families develop a plan for the coming storm season and other disasters that may occur.
He recommends purchasing a NOAA Weather Radio, water, flashlights and a 3-day supply of food.
“Water is the most important thing,” he said.
Snow also recommends that families pick a meeting point where family members can be accounted for.
“In the state guard, we have a ‘Rally Point’ where everyone knows to go to this location if something goes wrong,” he said. “Everyone needs to know that you are meeting at this location so you can make a count of who’s there and who’s not there,”
Snow has been married for 21 years to Lori Snow, a Burleson ISD reading specialist.
His son Jackson, 13, is interested in history and archeology, and his daughter, 10, likes art and racing motorcycles.
They reside in Burleson.
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