We are now fast approaching the next Hurricane Season. It begins June 1st and ends November 30. In response to this, Texas Governor Rick Perry and the State Operations Center has issued a statement informing us that May 27th to June 2nd has been declared "Hurricane Preparedness Week".
by Dale Freeman, Tyler County EMC
I have heard it said that the two greatest elements of a disaster are "lack of awareness" and lack of preparation. We at the Tyler County Emergency Management Office want to address both issues to insure the best possible outcome to our citizens by achieving the least possible impact on our county and citizens given the situation. Therefore, we "plan for the worst, but hope for the best."
Let us remember that in 2005, we all sat and watched the horrific devastation in the City of New Orleans where lives were lost and a large part of the city was destroyed by flooding. Ordinary citizens were driven into survival mode. That being fresh on our minds, only several months later, Hurricane Rita set sights on Southeast Texas, including Tyler County. We may not have been prepared for that but given Hurricane Katrina, we were surely aware which made our response more successful and certainly lessened the loss of human suffering to our citizens.
In 2008 still recovering from Hurricane Rita, Hurricane Gustaff made a close call on our county. Again, our citizens responded and moved to safety. As we did not actually experience the storm, many of our citizens became lax. Many had spent all of their emergency funds evacuating with Hurricane Gustaff and were financially unable to make another evacuation. Many of our citizens were less inclined to heed the call for evacuation since Gustaff did not affect us in a major way. Then again along came Hurricane Ike. We did not receive the same level of cooperation in evacuation as before. We were lucky that the impact on our citizens was no more than it was.
Having experienced this personally and as a county, we are very aware of the potential of a major storm to do damage to our lives, properties, and communities. We need to hold on to that knowledge and make good choices in the future to insure our safety and the betterment of our communities. Let's all have a plan of what we will do in the event of possible future hurricanes.
We each need to have a plan for ourselves, our immediate family, our extended family, our pets, our home, and our business. Share this plan and a phone number so that you can stay in contact with your family after evacuation. Have one person in your family away from the impact location be the contact person and with everyone calling them, they can relay messages of everyone's status as all can in to this one preset location.
The first and most important consideration is safety. When an evacuation is called, we strongly request you go out of the storm's path to a place of safety. Even before the evacuation is called, those of you who have no critical commitments such as a job or schooling should consider taking that trip that you have been thinking about. Leave several days in advance to avoid the mass chaos of a called evacuation.
As we approach Hurricane Season we should think of ways that we can make our homes more wind and weather resistant. Loose items such as outdoor furniture should be secured to prevent it from being wind driven into yours or your neighbors' house. Trim branches or removed diseased or dead trees that might fall and cause damages.
We should all touch up on our safety skills, such as first aid or CPR, etc. We should obtain and maintain at easy reach, medical and first aid supplies. We never know when they may be needed. We should have an ample supply of our medicine should we have to evacuate with little notice. We should all have packed basic supplies that we will need ("to go bag") that we can grab and go at a moment notice.
Let's remember our pets. You will not only need provisions for yourself but for them as well. You will need to have a place to go that will accept you as well as your pet.
The entire situation should be thought through and we should be well informed and knowledgeable of the basics of Hurricane Information to make proper choices that are in our best interests. Every individual and every family is in a different situation. Each decision may not be the same and neither differing decision is necessarily wrong. It just might be what works better for them.
Items that need to be considered are when you will evacuate. To make this decision, you must know the difference in a "weather watch" and a "weather warning". A "watch" means the conditions are favorable for the existence of a weather situation. A "warning" means the existence of a situation has somehow been confirmed and immediate danger is present. A watch means "possible", and a warning means "expected".
As this season approaches, we should set aside an amount of funds that will be available and attainable for use in an emergency.
As we consider all the aspects of a disaster such as a hurricane, we should remember that the Hurricane is not a single threat. There are many means or possibilities for disasters within the disaster. The storm itself can contain not only high winds, but tornadoes, lighting, Hail, flooding, wind driven rain, projectiles, falling trees, etc. There are disasters that result after the storm has passed through. There can be a lack of food and water, extreme heat with no power for cooling, injuries from recovery efforts, with no water, sanitation is an issue, Illness can appear with no medical services available. Let's not forget that there is stress, depression, and hopelessness. We must support and help each other as that is the right thing to do.
As we try to recover, we find that sometimes there might be criminal activity. Being in the survival mode, people may commit crimes against property or other persons such as theft or assaults. There are always many complaints of fraud and price gouging. Many will try to use the storm to receive undeserved benefit from insurance, charities, or the government.
We need to realize that there is a plan in place to get us help and supply our needs. With everyone working together and looking out for each other, we can survive again as we have in the past.