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Precinct 4 was ready for Rita
© by Bonnie McKenna
Observer Intern



Days before Hurricane Rita was forecasted to bear down on Galveston and Houston the men and women of Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Department were busy readying their equipment and teams for any emergency. 

“When circumstances concerning Hurricane Rita became an emergency and the call went out we had a 100% turn out of our personnel.  That is 300 men and women.  I am very proud to be apart of an organization such as this,” said Chief Deputy Jim Sumner.  “It was the first time in 20 years that we have had to do something like that.” he added.

“Before the storm hit our infrastructure was in place.  We had our mobile command post was positioned in the fire station ready to respond as needed.  Our high water search and rescue trucks and boat were fueled and ready as well.  We had our officers spread over the 520 square miles of the precinct ready to react quickly to any emergency. We were also in constant contact with Judge Echols, TransStar, Harris County emergency management teams and Texas Department of Transportation,” Constable Ron Hickman explained.

During the storm the power supplied to the precinct headquarters was minimal.  Enclosed within their building is the Communications Division.  This is the central dispatch area which is the life line for deputies working in the communities and the citizens who need emergency help.  The dispatch area generates a great deal of heat from the radios and computers.  When the power went down the dispatchers began working without air conditioning.   It did not take long before the temperature in the room became almost unbearable.  The dispatchers working their 12 hour shifts were quickly exhausted in the stagnant air. 

“Because we had moved our mobile command post to the near by fire station we were able to send our dispatchers there for a break every 4 hours.  The command post is self contained trailer with a generator and air conditioning.  It was a welcome relief to our staff who were suffering from the rough conditions in the dispatch area,” added Constable Hickman.

Over the two day period prior to Saturday the number of emergency calls, with the exception of stranded motorists, was fairly normal and decreased in some crime categories.  On Saturday the volume of emergency calls escalated to 986 nearly3 times the normal number.  Most of those calls were attributed to alarms set off in the high winds and calls made by citizens that were frightened and needed assurance.   

“We were totally surprised at the response of the community after the storm passed.  Citizens in the area realized that because the restaurants, markets and shops were closed the officers and employees of the precinct headquarters could not get anything to drink or eat.  As soon as it was safe people began bringing us food, water, and soft drinks.  We are very thankful to them,” said Hickman.

On Wednesday Constable Hickman and Deputy Chief Sumner flew to Orange , Texas to see what help Precinct 4 could offer their fellow officers.  “Knowing those officers have been working for days without a change of clothes or time for showers we took shirts and toiletries,” said Hickman.  “We are now waiting for FEMA and other government agencies involved in the recovery and clean up of Orange to let us know what we can do and when we can get in there to help their precinct get back in operation.  We are ready to go,” he added.