Hurricane preparedness

As the Houston area enters hurricane season—which lasts roughly from June 1 to Nov. 30—authorities are encouraging residents to be prepared for an emergency situation.



The likelihood of a hurricane passing though Cy-Fair is low because of the area's distance from the coast, said Frank Votaw with Cy-Fair CERT, a nonprofit organization that raises awareness about emergency planning through classes and programs. However, an incoming hurricane can still be a cause for concern for Cy-Fair residents, he said.



"We might not be at the center of it, but the devastating effects of a hurricane can be far reaching," Votaw said. "People in Cy-Fair, especially in flood-prone areas, still need to be ready for a potentially damaging storm."



CERT is active year-round, but it has special programs for training residents in all aspects of hurricane preparedness, including first aid, search and rescue and dealing with floods.



CERT also stocks containers of essential disaster relief supplies in various locations throughout the community. A 20-foot railroad cargo container is in Copperfield and two Neighborhood SAFEs—Supplies Available For Emergency—are in Stone Creek and Fairfield. The group also has a 6-by-10-foot Mobile Emergency Response Trailer with medical and search and rescue supplies.



Evacuations are not as common in areas farther from the coast, such as Cy-Fair, said Michael Walter, public information officer with the office of emergency management in Houston. Official evacuations in cities can be ordered by mayors, but the county judge orders them in unincorporated areas, he said.



"It's best to follow those orders because they are the ones who are most aware of how dangerous the storm is," Walter said. "During Hurricane Rita, we saw a lot of people evacuating when they didn't need to."



Houston's office of emergency management will host its free 2014 Hurricane Workshop May 31 at the George R. Brown Convention Center. The event is meant to prepare residents for hurricane season through presentations, interactive exhibits and hurricane forecasting. Hurricanes can realistically strike at any time throughout hurricane season, Walter said.



"[Tropical Storm] Allison was in June, but Hurricane Ike was in September," he said. "You never really know when a hurricane is going to strike, but if people make the effort to be prepared, it can make a huge difference."



Hurricane basics



Hurricane season runs June 1–Nov. 30



Hurricanes are exemplified by tropical sustained winds of 39–73 mph



A hurricane watch is announced when one is expected to reach the coast within 48 hours



A hurricane warning is announced for a particular area when one is expected within 36 hours



How to prepare



Determine safe spaces in your home (small enclosed areas indoors, on the lowest level of a house, away from windows and under something sturdy to protect from debris)



Conduct drills annually



Test smoke detectors and fire extinguishers once a month



Make sure children know important phone numbers



Hurricane watch



Check emergency supplies, fuel levels in vehicles and generators



Cover windows with plywood



Bring outdoor furniture inside



Hurricane warning



Stay tuned via television, radio or web for instructions from city officials



Review emergency plan with family



Turn the refrigerator to maximum cold



Fill bathtubs and spare containers with water



Stay away from windows and doors



Emergency Kit



The Houston Office of Emergency Management recommends stocking an emergency kit with the following items. Get the full list online at www.houstonoem.net.



Nonperishable food and bottled water for five days



Clothing and bedding



Rain gear



Plastic plates, cups and utensils



Battery operated radio



Flashlight



Cash or traveler's checks



Tool kit



Items for sanitation



First aid supplies/medications

By Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.


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