June 2015  

Are You Prepared for Hurricane Season?

Harris County continues to be one of the fastest-growing counties in America according to the U.S. Census Bureau. For people who have moved here, it is very important to be aware of the potential dangers during hurricane season, which runs from June 1st through November 30th.

Hurricanes can be life-threatening and cause serious damage through flooding, storm surge, high winds and tornadoes. Although this region has not been impacted since Hurricane Ike in 2008, the Harris County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management and its partners work year round to prepare for all disasters, including hurricanes.

"Our goal is to educate residents about the importance of not waiting until the last minute to prepare for a hurricane," says Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. "Living near the Gulf Coast means another hurricane will hit us. We just don't know when."

While forecasters are predicting a below average hurricane season, everyone should understand that it only takes one storm to wreak havoc in a community. So, regardless of storm predictions, it is vital to prepare before disaster strikes.

"Those who take the time to develop their emergency plans and assemble or update their supply kits will have peace of mind and be better prepared to survive a storm and recover from it," added Emmett. "It is important to know if you live in a likely evacuation zone or in an area where you will need to shelter in place."

Residents should also review and update their homeowners' or renters' insurance policies.

If you live in a potential evacuation zone, learn your evacuation routes and wait on instructions from local authorities before leaving. To determine if your home is located in an evacuation zone, check the Zip Zone Evacuation Map.

If you are asked to evacuate:
  Leave as soon as possible or when recommended.
  Secure your home. Lock windows and doors.
  Unplug appliances. Turn off electricity and main water valve.
  Pack your supplies kit.
  Take your pets with you.
  Make sure your gas tank is full.
  Follow recommended evacuation routes.
Your evacuation emergency supply kit should include:
  Copies of important documents, including insurance policies and identification cards sealed in a watertight plastic bag.
  Family and emergency contact information.
  Supply of prescription medicines and glasses.
  Sleeping bag, blankets and pillows.
  Change of clothes.
  Sanitation and personal hygiene items such as toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and deodorant.
  Games and activity books for children.
  Pet supplies including food, water, leashes, bedding, crates and vaccination records.

Residents who need help evacuating should dial 2-1-1 to register for transportation assistance. The State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry (STEAR) 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.

If you are staying home:
  Identify a safe room, an area with no windows. Stock it with battery-powered TV/radio with spare batteries, sleeping bags, pillows, food and water.
  Secure your home. Secure outdoor objects and furniture or bring them indoors.
  Fill bathtubs with water for non-drinking use (sanitary purposes such as flushing toilets).
  Wait until storm passes to come out.
Your supply kit for sheltering in place should include:
  Seven-day supply of water, one gallon of water per person per day.
  Seven-day supply of non-perishable food and a can opener.
  Disposable cups, plates, utensils and napkins.
  Infant formula and diapers.
  Weather radio and extra batteries.
  Flashlight and extra batteries.
Cell phone and charger.
Whistle to signal for help.
Fire extinguisher.
Multi-purpose tool.
Matches in a waterproof container.
Plastic sheeting and duct tape.
Moist wipes and garbage bags.
Extra cash.

It is important that you stay informed before, during and after a hurricane. Stay on top of weather updates and timely information through www.readyharris.org and by monitoring the news media. Local officials will provide information about current conditions, evacuations and re-entry. Residents can also follow HCOHSEM on Facebook and Twitter.

In addition to your personal preparedness, consider getting involved in neighborhood and community emergency preparedness activities. The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills. CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. Call Harris County Citizen Corps at (281) JOIN NOW (564-6669) or go to harriscountycitizencorps.com to sign up for classes or to get information about other volunteer opportunities. You can also get Harris County Citizen Corps news and updates on Facebook.