Released by the Texas Department of Public Safety:
AUSTIN, TX - Jack Colley, head of the DPS Texas Division of Emergency Management, died on May 16. Colley, 62, suffered a heart attack in early May.
"Jack Colley was a valuable member of the Texas Department of Public Safety and a national icon in the profession of Emergency Management," said Steve McCraw, director of the DPS. "Jack was a great Texan, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time."
At the state's first-ever Texas Hurricane Conference in 2003, Colley summed up the philosophy that guided him during the many catastrophic events he oversaw on behalf of the State of Texas: "In disaster, the most important thing for you to know is that you are not alone."
During his 12-plus years with the DPS, Colley was involved in the response and recovery to many of Texas' largest incidents, disasters and emergencies, including the Space Shuttle Columbia crash (2003) and Hurricane Rita (2005) and Hurricane Ike (2008).
Colley coordinated the effort to shelter thousands of Katrina evacuees in 2005 and then led the monumental evacuation of more than 3 million Texas residents as Hurricane Rita threatened the southeast Texas coast only weeks later.
In 2008, the Texas Division of Emergency Management responded to six hurricanes and tropical storms within a 90-day period. These storms included Hurricane Dolly, which devastated the Lower Rio Grande Valley July 23 and Hurricane Ike, which washed over Galveston and the southeast Texas coast on Sept. 13.
Under Colley's guidance, Texas led the nation in a number of initiatives to make disaster response "quicker, faster, smarter," which included work on systems to improve tracking of special needs evacuees and improved processes for safe re-entry of evacuees after the storm.
Over the past year, DEM has focused on Re-Entry Task Forces to bring back security, restore infrastructure, provide mass care and start recovery within the first 72 hours after a storm. In an effort to speed deployment of resources to states struck by mega-disasters, Colley pushed for an Interstate Emergency Response Support Plan (IERSP) with Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma – the first of its kind in the nation.
"In times of crisis, Texas depended on Jack Colley for leadership and he rose to the occasion each and every time. That leadership will be sorely missed," said Allan B. Polunsky, chairman of the Texas Public Safety Commission.
In the wake of Katrina in 2005, as it was learned that many people declined to evacuate if they could not bring their family pets, Colley began efforts to open evacuation and sheltering operations in Texas to include companion animals.
"A lot of jokes are made about it but it is simply not a joke. Nobody dies because they can't bring their pet. This is Texas," Colley once said.
Colley also served as the Assistant Director of the Texas Office of Homeland Security and was the State Administrative Agent for all Federal Homeland Security Programs within Texas. Colley was a member of the Governor's Homeland Security Council, the First Responder Advisory Council and the Critical Infrastructure and Key Resource Protection Council. He was chair of the Texas Drought Preparedness Council.
Colley served in the U.S. Army from 1970 to 1997, retiring as a Colonel before joining DPS. He served in several positions of significant responsibility, including Chief Operations Officer for the Second Brigade and Headquarters, lst Cavalry Division and Division Chief for Strategic Planning for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Department of Defense. Colley was a graduate of the U. S. Army War College and the Command and General Staff College. Colley earned a bachelor's degree from East Texas State University in Commerce and a master's in business from Abilene Christian University.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Statement of Gov. Rick Perry on the Death of Jack Colley:
"Jack Colley did more to keep Texans safe over the past eight years than anyone will ever know. Every Texan who evacuated a hurricane impact zone, watched airplanes douse a wildfire or got clear instructions on how to avoid the H1N1 virus should pause and offer a prayer of thanks for this remarkable man.
"In his zeal to protect his fellow Texans, Jack asked tough questions and ignored business-as-usual as he searched for better, faster and more effective ways to handle disasters. If I were to boil down Jack's legacy to one word, it would be ‘preparedness,' because he demanded it of everyone who crossed his path. His selfless devotion to the citizens of Texas was unmatched.
"Anita and I extend our sincere condolences and prayers to his family, friends and colleagues all over the state."
Sen. Cornyn statement on passing of Texas emergency chief Jack Colley:
"Jack Colley's passing is a tremendous loss for the State of Texas. He was a devoted public servant who for years dedicated himself to keeping Texans informed, connected and safe during some of our state's most tragic and dangerous natural disasters. My staff and I have relied heavily on Jack's accurate, diligent and detailed reports during my time in public office. As hurricanes approached our coast or tornadoes touched down in the plains, it was Jack Colley's even, collected voice that brought a sense of order and calm to an anxious public. My thoughts and prayers are with the Colley family as they mourn the loss of their loved one and this fine public servant whose work has kept millions of Texans out of harm's way."