On Sunday, the calls shifted to determining what resources were needed and available for the eastern regions of Texas to assist them with rescue and recovery. Our county has well-documented and practiced procedures, along with a clear chain of command for emergency responses. This is a well-oiled machine.
How well-oiled is your family’s emergency plan? The disaster that unfolded in 20 percent of Texas’ counties last week motivated me to develop an emergency plan and pack an escape bag. What should we all pack? Where will we meet if dispersed during a disaster? Who needs to be contacted?
September is National Preparedness Month. Harvey blew into Texas ahead of September, and Irma arrived this month, causing extensive damage in Florida and other areas. We all need to pause our busy lives and commit to planning for our own disasters.
What are our important documents? Start with your cards, such as charge cards, medical cards, driver’s license, etc. Copy the fronts of the cards, then turn the cards over and copy the backs of the cards, keeping them in appropriate order on the copier’s glass. Put those sheets into protector sheets and seal the opened edge with packing tape to make them waterproof. Make a list of all prescriptions, including prescription numbers for refills and a telephone number of your pharmacy. Again, put these into protector sheets and seal. You may say, “What if someone steals my bag?” It’s a small risk for having this information available should you need to run out of a flooded home or seek shelter from a tornado or hurricane. It gives you a leg up on recovery.
What else should your escape bag contain? Not the world, just the essentials. Perhaps include an extra checkbook that you switch out as you move to your next book of checks. Other essentials for your bag are extra cell phone chargers, toiletries (small quantities), a change of clothes and an emergency list that identifies all the last-minute items like prescriptions.
Other preparations should include moving critical information from your computer to a cloud account. Download the Williamson County application WILCOREADY and complete its setup on each of your cell phones. This app will walk you through the creation of an emergency plan for yourself and your family. Also, what’s the plan for evacuating your pets? Their food? Where do you go? WILCOREADY can help with that.
Another program that many Texans like me used during this hurricane is WarnCentralTexas, which provides up-to-date emergency information. By registering at warncentraltexas.org or calling 866-939-0911, you can receive phone, text or email alerts. Our landlines are automatically registered for emergencies through the Capital Area Council of Governments via a regional notification system. Registering with WarnCentralTexas allows emergency response teams to warn residents about dangerous conditions and situations as events unfold in our local community, while providing specific information, such as evacuation orders and directions to shelters.
Jacob Boesch with the Round Rock Fire Department checks homes in Port Arthur as part of a search and rescue team.
So how has our County responded to our neighbors affected by Harvey? Williamson County has coordinated requests for assistance from the state through the Texas Interstate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS) and the Texas Forest Service (TFS), both for operational support and incident management. Multiple agencies have deployed fire and rescue resources to coastal communities to replace or relieve local responders. Incident management personnel have responded to assist local officials with emergency operations. Responding crews come from Williamson County, the cities of Cedar Park, Georgetown, Leander and Round Rock, as well as the Hutto Fire Rescue/ ESD 3, Florence Fire / EDS 7, Coupland Fire / EDS 10 and Taylor VFD.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families who were affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and who now are cleaning up and going about the business of restoring their homes and lives. As we take time to reach out to help our fellow Americans in need through donations or assistance, let us also take time to help ourselves and our families by being prepared and ready before the next disaster strikes. As the ready.gov webpage states “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.”