July 2014  

Hurricane Season is Here. Don’t Let Your Guard Down.

Hurricane season is here, and although forecasters expect the 2014 season to be a mild one, it is still important to be prepared along the Gulf Coast in case disaster strikes. Local emergency managers advise against complacency, urging residents to restock supply kits and revisit their emergency plans, regardless of predictions.

The Harris County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management offers the following tips:

Before a Hurricane

Joint Processing Center

Have a 7-10 day supply of non-perishable food and water.

Put together an emergency supply kit that includes a NOAA weather radio and batteries, a flashlight and batteries; extra eyeglasses; clothing, bedding, medications and prescriptions; special products for babies, elderly and medically fragile family members; credit cards and cash (enough for up to a week in the event ATMs are out of cash or not working if power goes out); photo IDs; important documents and records; and proof of residence and insurance information.

Be ready to protect your windows with storm shutters or 5/8” marine plywood (tape does not protect windows).

Trim trees and shrubs and clean out rain gutters.

Verify your generator is working and has enough fuel.

Take pictures of valuables including furniture, art work and electronics.

Take pictures of your home to verify the condition prior to the storm.

Fill your vehicle’s gas tank.

Find a place to store loose objects or patio furniture.

Notify family and friends of your plans.

If you live in an area that is threatened by storm surge, discuss evacuation plans with your family and do not stay if you are asked to leave. To determine if your home is located in an evacuation zone, check the Zip Zone Evacuation Map.

If officials ask you to evacuate

Joint Processing Center

Leave as soon as possible.

Unplug appliances. Turn off electricity and main water valve.

Pack your supplies kit, food, water, toiletries, extra blankets and sleeping bags.

Lock windows and doors.

Follow recommended evacuation routes.

Take your pets with you.

If you are staying home

Identify a safe room. A safe room has no windows and will protect you if your house is damaged. Large interior closets, hallways, bathrooms or stairwells make good safe rooms. Stock it with a battery-powered TV/radio with spare batteries, sleeping bags, pillows, snacks and water.

Have a mattress nearby to get under in case of structural damage.

Fill bathtubs with water for non-drinking use.

Freeze water in empty milk jugs for use in coolers.

Register with the State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry (STEAR)

The STEAR program is a free service available to the elderly, people with disabilities or special medical conditions and individuals who do not have a motor vehicle or other means of transportation.

Residents can dial 2-1-1, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to register for transportation assistance. It is important to register now. Personal information is completely confidential and is used only by emergency responders to help match the appropriate assistance for your individual evacuation needs. Remember that you must register each year. If you move or no longer need this service, please contact 2-1-1 to update your status.

Have a Plan for Your Pets

The same rules that apply to people apply to pets during an emergency. Never leave your pets behind. Prepare an emergency kit for your pets and a plan on how to care for them when you are on the road or staying at a shelter or hotel.

Make sure pets have collars and identification tags, including a cell number where you can be reached if your pet gets lost. A pet emergency kit should include:

7-10 day supply of non-perishable food and water

Feeding bowls

Pet carrier or crate


Shot records and medications

Waste bags or litter box

Pet bed and toys

Find out ahead of time if there will be any shelters that take pets or have a list of pet-friendly hotels that you can call to reserve a room.

Stay Informed

It is important that you stay informed before, during and after a hurricane. At times, cell phones and landline phones may be out of service or congested with calls. When this happens, alternative communication methods may be needed to keep in touch with family and friends and to get up-to-date news. Text messaging may be a successful way to communicate when phone calls are not possible.

The best way to stay informed is through www.readyharris.org and by monitoring the news media. Local officials will provide information about current conditions, evacuations and re-entry.

Get Involved

In addition to your personal preparedness, consider getting involved in neighborhood and community emergency preparedness activities. The Harris County Citizen Corps provides training and volunteer opportunities. For more information go to harriscountycitizencorps.com or call (281) JOIN NOW (564-6669).

Harris County Unveils New Emergency Operations Center

Just in time for hurricane season, the Harris County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management recently unveiled its new Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The EOC is the communication and coordination hub that supports incident response and recovery operations.

This new state-of-the-art center provides additional space and new technology for regional collaboration during emergencies. During an activation, it houses local, state, federal and private sector partners. It is also used for training, exercises and drills.

The new facility is part of the Houston TranStar building expansion project that has added 26,000 square feet of new floor space and renovated 11,000 square feet of existing space. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

TranStar is a partnership of four government agencies that provide transportation and emergency management services to the region. They include the Texas Department of Transportation, METRO, Harris County and the City of Houston.