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Texas County Joins Regional Emergency Disaster Plan

HOUSTON -- Montgomery County, Texas, recently locked in another piece of its emergency management puzzle with an agreement for medical operations for disasters.

As part of a regional planning initiative, Montgomery County signed an interlocal agreement to become part of the Catastrophic Medical Operations Center. This coalition of 100 hospitals in a nine-county region helps to coordinate and maintain the emergency medical structures in the event of a manmade or natural disaster.

"It's part of the formal emergency management plan that we've been developing over the last couple of years," said Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, who serves as emergency management coordinator for the county.

Currently, only Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties are part of the CMOC system, although agreements are pending with other counties in the area, said Lori Upton, chairwoman of the Regional Emergency and Hospital Preparedness Council, which initiated the coalition.

The program was first used during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when evacuees fled Louisiana before the storm and during the subsequent flooding that inundated New Orleans. The entity helped place 1,100 evacuees from Reliant Center and the George R. Brown Convention Center into health care facilities over a two-week period.

The operations center also was activated during Hurricane Rita in 2005, evacuating 19 health care facilities and 121 long-term health care facilities ahead of that storm. In total, the center assisted with the placement of 2,400 individuals during that event.

"It helps to provide a safety net to the health care infrastructure," said Upton, who also serves as assistant director for emergency management at Texas Children's Hospital.

The system also can be activated during a manmade disaster, such as a biological or chemical attack.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Montgomery County has been beefing up its regional approach to disasters. This is just one more step in the process, said County Judge Alan B. Sadler.

"This is one more facet in the county's emergency management plan to address medical assessment and needs and to implement efforts," Sadler said.

The new initiative will provide a single point of contact for the county on emergency medical issues.

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