Gregg, Rusk and two other surrounding counties are set to receive boosted state emergency management support.
The Texas Division of Emergency Management will hire 100 new field response employees, known as county liaison officers, which will increase the number of counties where an officer is stationed to 137.
Four of those new officers will serve Gregg, Upshur, Rusk and Harrison counties.
“Over the past decade, Texas has experienced some of the worst disasters the state has ever faced,” Texas Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd said in a statement. “This change allows TDEM to directly support local partners in a more robust manner by leveraging resources for Texas communities.”
The Texas Division of Emergency Management plans to restructure federal grant funding to add the additional county liaison officers.
“As a result of this change in strategy, TDEM will more than triple the size of our field support network by dedicating full-time employees to support local emergency management efforts,” Kidd said.
Mark Moore, Gregg County emergency management coordinator, said the area disaster district coordinator covers 14 counties, including Gregg, Rusk, Harrison, Smith and Upshur.
“That’s a lot of area to cover for one person,” Moore said. “If you have a disaster that covers multiple counties at one time, that person can be stretched very, very thin.”
Moore referenced this past week’s Longview water main break as a situation that required outside assistance.
“Our (disaster district coordinator) was tied up on another assignment, so we had to pull a DDC from neighboring Titus County,” Moore said. “If we’re all dealing with the same problem at the same time, we’re vying for those same resources that everybody’s trying to get.”
The introduction of county liaison officers will be able to serve as additional Texas Division of Emergency Management support in the event that the disaster district coordinator is occupied, Moore said.
Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt said the new state support will speed up emergency response. He said having an additional person who can focus on situations within the county is a welcome addition.
“As Gregg County grows and this region grows, (it’s) becoming more of a hub not just in growth but population,” Stoudt said.
As more people are drawn to the area, more assistance is needed, he added.
Upshur County Judge Todd Tefteller said he was impressed with the Texas Division of Emergency Management’s response in March after ”ferocious” storms damaged property in the county.
“Anytime you can get the TDEM to help, things are gonna be way smoother because they put you in contact with the resources you need to handle unexpected events such as what we went through with this March storm,” Tefteller said.
The county liaison officers will be recruited and hired in groups of 20, according to the Texas Division of Emergency Management. The first 20 positions are advertised on the agency’s website now, and the next round of positions is expected soon.