COLLEGE STATION — Few people realize the danger zone Texas is when it comes to hurricanes, and even fewer are prepared when disaster strikes.
The state of Texas has endured 10 of the nation’s 30 worst hurricanes since the 1900 storm that devastated Galveston Island, and thousands are living in high-risk areas with little knowledge of how to survive if the worst happens.
Dr. Alma Fonseca, Brazoria County Extension agent, said many Texans have acquired a false sense of security believing, “It won’t happen to me.”
“People should find out what disasters are likely to happen in their area,” she said. “Those in places at risk for a hurricane should plan ahead by preparing their homes, vehicles, pets, and family.”
Fonseca said before Texans can get to safety, they need to be educated and prepared.
“Families should always have a disaster supplies kit ready for an emergency,” she said. “It should be packed it in a vehicle that is in good repair and full of gas.”
Having a disaster supplies kit can save lives and make a bad situation a little bit easier. A few of the things a disaster kit should include are:
First aid kit
Three day supply of non-perishable food
Bedding or sleeping bags
Flashlights and batteries
Money, checks or credit cards
Water (one gallon per person per day)
Name, address and telephone number of out-of-area contact
In addition to a disaster supplies kit, Fonseca said families should develop a preparedness plan.
“The plan needs to be known to all family members,” she said. “The basic preparedness plan has four steps. Do your homework, create a family plan, make a checklist and update it periodically, and practice and maintain what you have learned.”
First of all, Texans should contact their local emergency management or civil defense office to find out which disasters are possible near their home. They should also learn about their community’s warning signals and find out about plans for family and pets.
“Find out about the emergency response plan for your workplace, your children’s school or daycare, and any other place your family spends a great deal of time,” she said. “It is also smart to find out about animal care in certain places, since pets may not be allowed in shelters because of health regulations.”
Next, Fonseca said to discuss with your family the need to prepare for disaster. Explain the danger of severe weather to children and form a plan with responsibilities for everyone on the “team.”
“Establish meeting areas inside and outside your home, and make sure everyone knows when and where to contact each other if separated,” she said. “Families should also decide on escape routes out of their home, and what to do if advised to evacuate.”
Thirdly, make a checklist of important emergency aid and update it periodically.
“Post emergency telephone numbers, and make sure the children know how to use them,” she said. “It is also a good idea to teach everyone how to use a fire extinguisher, turn off the main valves in the house and how to perform basic first aid.”
Finally, Fonseca said to practice and maintain the plan. Test children’s knowledge every six months to help them remember, conduct emergency drills, and check smoke detectors monthly.
“It is also smart to meet with neighbors and plan how the neighborhood can work together after a disaster,” she said. “Consider how to help others with special needs, such as disabled and elderly persons, and plan for child care in case parents can’t get home.”
Fonseca said while there is no sure way to predict when and where a hurricane will hit in Texas, both cities and counties have emergency managers whose job is to prepare the community and its citizens for these storms and other disasters.
“Your local officials will tell you when to evacuate,” she said. “During a hurricane watch, listen to your radio or television constantly. Broadcasts will give special weather updates, warning messages, and evacuation information.”
When the time comes to evacuate, go as far inland as possible. Use evacuation routes shown on maps, or follow blue hurricane evacuation signs along roads. It is also wise to have a pre-planned place to stay, such as the inland home of a relative of friend.
For answers to specific questions concerning hurricanes and preparing for them, contact your local Emergency Management Office.