Issue 1 Volume 1 , August 2009  
       
   
Welcome from County Judge Ed Emmett
Hello, and welcome to the first edition of The County Judge Report, a monthly online newsletter to keep you informed about the happenings in Harris County government.
If you are receiving this newsletter, it means you have either previously signed up to receive news alerts from my office or that you were someone we thought might be interested in following Harris County news and events. If you would like to unsubscribe, you may use the link on the menu to the left. Otherwise, I will continue to provide you with information that I think you’ll find helpful and, at times, entertaining.
This newsletter will be about issues facing my office, other county departments, and Harris County residents in general. It will NOT be about me, and it will not be a soapbox for political opinion or diatribes. I’m hoping you’ll also take the time to let us know your reactions and to suggest any issues you’d like to see highlighted in upcoming editions.

With hurricane season now upon us, my staff and I decided to focus this month’s issue on hurricane preparedness. Many have yet to fully recover from the widespread damage caused by Hurricane Ike last year, but the best way to face another hurricane season is as a fully prepared and informed resident of coastal Texas. So please – make a plan, get a kit, and stay informed.

Thank you for reading, and I truly hope you enjoy this and all future issues of The County Judge Report.

Sincerely,

Ed Emmett
Harris County Judge

 
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Hurricane season runs from June 1st through November 30th of each year.

Are you ready?

The following steps will help keep you safe.


Make a plan.

Do you know if you live in a storm surge zone? Harris County’s Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management offers a zip code based storm surge map and other preparedness resources at http://www.hcoem.org/. Whether you will evacuate or hunker down, be sure to practice your plan as a family. Remember to ask your workplace or school what actions they will take if a hurricane threatens our community.

Get a kit.
Have enough food, water, medication and other essential supplies for a week. An emergency supply kit includes a battery operated NOAA weather radio, flashlight, bottled water, non-perishable food, medication, financial documents and much more. It’s a good idea to have a kit at home and one in your car.

Stay informed.
Tune in to your favorite station for the latest forecast and follow the recommendations of local emergency management officials.

Prepare for Special Needs.
If you live in an evacuation zone and require special assistance to evacuate during a storm, dial 2-1-1 to register for a ride. This includes the elderly, people with disabilities or special medical conditions, or those who simply need transportation. Learn more at  2-1-1 Registry.

Hurricane season has arrived, and knowing what to do is your best protection and your responsibility.
Get ready today.

 
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Home Preparedness for the Hurricane Season

While the high winds associated with hurricanes pose a serious threat, we know from recent years that damage from flooding can be equally devastating. Do what you can now to prepare your home and make it safe from either danger. Some steps are simple while others will require an investment of time and expense.

Keep fierce winds from entering the home and blowing out doors, windows, or the roof. Have plywood already cut or invest in shutters to cover windows. Reinforce the garage door. Make sure double entry doors have strong enough bolts and that there are locking pins on both doors.

Check the roof and attic. The sheathing and shingles can be made more secure by re-nailing or by special adhesives. If you have a gabled roof, the end walls can be reinforced by bracing with 2 x 4s.

Outside, keep dead or heavy tree limbs trimmed. Be ready to bolt down, chain, or remove items like play equipment, barbecue grills, and potted plants to prevent their becoming wind-borne missiles crashing into the house.


Know the elevation of your property and its relation to the flood plains. In especially flood-prone areas, it may pay to raise electrical outlets and panels above the flood line, install sewer backflow valves, or even re-locate heating and cooling equipment to a higher level. (Also make sure that you have adequate flood insurance and make a record of your home furnishings with video or photos.)

Some projects will require professional help or even building permits. FEMA’s Resource Library has detailed information on these and other safety projects to protect your home against both wind and flood damage.

Whether you run from the water or hide from the wind when the next hurricane approaches, your home should be as storm-proof as you can make it.

   
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Kids Need to Be Prepared During Hurricane Season, Too
It is important that children not only be kept safe during weather emergencies, but that they also feel safe. Children’s imaginations are lively, and what they don’t understand, they imagine, invent, and often fear. One way to handle kids’ fears is to give them information – information appropriate to their age.

Read to young children and let older kids read by themselves about this weather phenomenon. Learning what makes a hurricane develop, how to prepare for a hurricane, why an evacuation may be necessary, and how to recover after a hurricane can help children deal better with these events. Several books about hurricanes recommended for children ages 3-14 are noted here to help get started.

Additional hurricane resources, including audio books and DVDs, can also be found at your nearest Harris County Library.

 

Internet resources for children can help familiarize kids with hurricane facts through games, cartoons, interesting details, and projects. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s FEMA for Kids and the Department of Homeland Security’s Ready Kids are two places for kids – as well as their parents and teachers – to learn while having fun.

Kids can be made to feel useful and get prepared at the same time by helping put together the family disaster kit and their own “survival activity kit.” The kit could include a few games, writing and drawing items, books, stuffed animal, and pillow or blanket. Helping make plans and knowing what to expect helps kids feel more in control during events that may be frightening for everybody.

Helping the children in your family be prepared for what to do before, during, and after a hurricane will help them cope and feel safe, making it easier for adults to cope, too.
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Have a Plan in Place for your Pets
For many of us, pets are an important part of our families. Plan ahead how to care for them during a disaster, whether you evacuate or shelter in place.

Pack an emergency supply kit for your pets and keep it ready at all times. The kit should include enough food, water, and medicine for five days. Have pets' medical history and veterinary records in the kit along with toys to entertain them for a long car trip, or for several hours indoors. Be sure to pack food and water bowls, litter, a litter box, litter scoop, and plastic bags for their waste.

Remember to keep pets’ identification tags on them all the time. Have your name and address on the tag along with your cell phone number. When a disaster occurs, many things can go wrong. If you evacuate and your pet gets lost, you will need a phone number on the identification tag where you can be reached.

Purchase a pet carrier before a disaster strikes. The carrier should be large enough to comfortably accommodate your pet. When you make your family disaster plan, call ahead to the community where you will evacuate and see which hotels accept pets. You can also consider boarding your pet in a kennel. Once you have located a hotel, call to find a kennel that is near the hotel where you will be staying. Ask if they are open seven days a week. It would be best to board your pet at a location that is open on weekdays and weekends. You never know what day of the week you will need to evacuate, or when you will be able to return home.

Don't forget pets when preparing your family disaster plan, and remember to give them plenty of reassurance throughout the storm or evacuation.

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