Texas weather can be unpredictable. No one knows when the next disaster will strike, so staying prepared for natural disasters is essential.
Freddie Jebousek, the director of Precinct 4’s Road & Bridge Department, is used to preparing for any weather event. But after Hurricane Harvey pummeled the region, he knew there was more his team could do.
“[Our high-water team and fleet] all came after Hurricane Harvey,” said Jebousek. “We’d been through floods, but we had never rescued people. Harvey was just so bad, and we were there, so we took it upon ourselves to help rescue people. The flooding was so widespread, and there weren’t enough firemen and police to do it. Once we did that, Commissioner (R. Jack Cagle) agreed that if we’re going to rescue people, we need the proper equipment and proper training.”
High-water rescue training prepares rescuers to save people stranded in their homes or cars. Twenty-two Road & Bridge crew members participated in the initial high-water training near the end of 2018 at Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve.
Participants learned how to use high-water vehicles and boats, as well as the basics of navigating floodwaters and identifying harmful or obstructive items like submerged cars or mailboxes. Lessons also included assisting and interacting with flood victims and using the truck’s liftgates for residents in wheelchairs or those who have mobility issues.
Additionally, crew members spent four days on Marshall Lake for in-depth boating lessons and met with their instructor one-on-one for lessons on the mechanics of their vehicles.
Since the initial training, practice sessions have been held every two months at KMP. Unfortunately, additional sessions have been postponed because of guidelines implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Purchasing the proper equipment also became a priority. For guidance, Jebousek consulted with outside sources.
“We sought [fire and police] opinion on what equipment to purchase,” said Jebousek. “We got the equipment on our own, then requested the training from other agencies in our department. The Precinct 4 Constable’s Office helped us with the high-water truck training.”
The Precinct 4 commissioner’s office now has three FEMA-approved high-water vehicles equipped with lights that help rescuers see through the water, a ladder, and other features.
The most concerning potential flood areas for Precinct 4 include communities near the Addicks Reservoir, and in Bear Creek, Humble, and Kingwood. However, there’s never a clear indication of where high-water will occur until it happens. The timing of floods is also unpredictable, so Road & Bridge crews make sure they’re ready to serve at a moment’s notice. In preparation for the annual hurricane season, Precinct 4 employees perform inspections on high-water vehicles in April and ensure all the mechanical aspects of the trucks are ready. Barricades and high-water signage are updated and conveniently stored for quick and easy access.
With the high-water rescue training, Precinct 4 is better prepared for sudden weather events or natural disasters. The precinct’s Road & Bridge team has helped put our community at an advantage when it comes to serving residents in times of need.