Excellence in Emergency Management 

Mont Belvieu, Texas

Nathan Watkins, City Manager

The rapidly growing city of Mont Belvieu established its new Emergency Plan to ensure a thoughtful, planned approach to emergencies with timely and accurate information for residents and business partners throughout the area. This full-scale program provides emergency management, real-time weather updates, emergency notifications, and preparedness plans as well as an overall response to catastrophic events. Mont Belvieu began developing this program to ensure the overall safety of the community in the event of an environmental emergency, weather-related disaster, or industrial incident. The city also needed to improve its preparedness, response, and fiscal responsibility to residents and partners through team-based, nationally recognized processes that met industry standards.

In the past, Mont Belvieu worked under the Chambers County emergency plan, but an analysis revealed that the county plan no longer had the technology or procedures necessary to meet the city’s overall operational needs.  The city developed an all-encompassing plan that addressed four specific areas: (1) rapid notification; (2) consistency of information; (3) emergency protective measures; and (4) response capabilities. The city added positions to ensure that its office of emergency management was adequately staffed to take on the roles necessary to achieve the goals of the new program.

Rapid Notification. The city established Mont Belvieu INFORCE, a mass notification system that allows the city to share pertinent information during weather related emergencies, special events, and other public safety situations. These notifications can be targeted to specific geographic areas. Another means of notification is a new WeatherBug weather station, which is part of the National Weather Service and has the ability to automatically trigger the city’s siren system and push automatic notifications through the INFORCE system if a tornado enters any area of the city. Next, Mont Belvieu undertook the additional steps required to become a Storm Ready City through the National Weather Service—a certification it received in 2020.

Consistent Notifications. To make the notifications work, the city hired a communications director who is trained in the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and has attended specialized training for emergency communications through FEMA. He works daily with emergency management staff to ensure the maintenance of the system and consistency in delivery of information. During an activated event or incident, he serves in the emergency operations center (EOC) to share timely information. With these systems monitored twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, the city has established the consistency and expedient delivery of information that residents and industrial partners require.

Emergency Protective Measures. The city spent almost a year developing its first emergency operations plan and has since trained all responsible staff to NIMS-level compliance. This plan served well during a year with six EOC activations for storm-related events as well as COVID-19. The plan ensures levels of protection and readiness for staff as well as residents.

Response Capabilities. Mont Belvieu is heavily populated with industrial complexes. To ensure its ability to respond to industrial emergencies, it needs to have specific organizations in place for compliance, monitoring, and notifications. A local emergency planning committee (LEPC) was paramount. LEPCs are set forth by federal law to organize the planning and development of industrial partners in the area. Mont Belvieu’s emergency management department coordinated with the county to form a joint LEPC that has allowed for the organization and notifications necessary to carry out emergency functions and planning for large-scale industrial responses. Monthly, LEPC committees address the following areas to ensure a state of readiness: communications, public information and training, planning, emergency response, and resources. These committees are responsible for development and delivery of procedures and plans within their respective areas. With the establishment of the LEPC, the city has been able to assist with organization, dedicated response capabilities, as well as an overall information sharing ability that was needed to keep Mont Belvieu residents and partners informed and safe in the event of emergencies.