|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - June 2009
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
IT’S BACK … Hurricane Season
Polk County Enterprise - June 2009
BY CHARLES K. FRANKLIN
LIVINGSTON – Hurricane season is upon us and the Polk County Offi ce of Emergency Management (PCOEM) team is urging everyone to get prepared now. “Everyone should plan on taking care of themselves for three to fi ve days,” PCOEM Coordinator Larry Shine said. “Don’t wait for the state to come bail you out. It simply doesn’t have the resources.” In today’s society many people are accustomed to having whatever they need available for purchase 24 hours a day. But last September East Texans learned all of that goes away when catastrophe strikes. Stores may be unable to receive shipments and the limited supply they have on hand is quickly purchased by local folks who are unprepared and by evacuees from other counties who have nothing.
“The most necessary items for survival are fuel, water and ice,” Shine said. “A person can live for three days without water and for 30 days without food. If folks are prepared to survive on their own for fi ve days the state will get to them and be able to offer aid.” Shine is encouraging everyone to be aware of their neighbors who may need assistance and be prepared to help them survive. Many of the elderly folks receive assistance such as meals-on-wheels that will not be available in the event of an emergency. The facilities used to serve these meals is transitioned to serve fi rst responders and other emergency personnel. “If you are going to evacuate it just makes sense to take them with you,” Shine said. “People should keep their driving to a minimum.
Gas and diesel are the hardest items to fi nd after a major storm.” PCOEM Special Needs Coordinator Johnnie Jago tracks those folks who may not be able to survive on their own without electricity and a helping hand to care for them. Most often these people are evacuated ahead of time to a pre-storm shelter where they are guaranteed to have electricity to run whatever medical devices they must have. “Pre-storm shelters are the county’s responsibility,” Jago said. “Once the storm hits they would become a post-storm shelter if necessary.” Many churches have volunteered to serve as pre-storm shelters.
Three of these churches, The Church on the Rock, Pine Forest Baptist and First United Methodist Church are committed to the Red Cross as post-storm shelters. If people are in a pre-storm shelter they may be moved after the storm if the church is not equipped to handle them. Area schools will also serve as post-storm shelters for evacuees. They have all committed some of their staff to be trained as shelter coordinators. Some church volunteers have agreed to be trained as well. More are needed though, according to Jago. “The Red Cross must bring volunteers in from other parts of the country to run the shelters if there are not enough trained personnel here,” Jago said. Anyone interested in becoming a trained Red Cross shelter coordinator is encouraged to call Johnnie Jago at (936)327-6867 or send her an e-mail at Johnnie. email@example.com.
Don’t forget about the pets. Every family with pets should also draft a plan before an urgent situation arises. “Typically, residents do not want to evacuate so they wait until the last possible hour to see if the approaching storm is going to veer away,” Shine said. “By then it is usually too late to find a safe place for their pets and they fear that motels or the family members they are heading to cannot accept animals. So they leave their pets at home thinking they will return the next day.
“However, the return time can stretch into weeks, depending on the severity of the storm or the location of the damaged home. That can create a dreadful fate for beloved pets.” “In addition to our ongoing needs, even more equipment and volunteers will be needed during emergency situations,” Linda Burnett, SPCA board member, said. “As shelter sites are being considered, the SPCA will continue to receive pets. We will need additional dog/cat carriers, wire cages, dog runs, and trailers.
We will also need people to organize emergency plans and implement them. It is a big job, but I know our animal loving community will come through for us.” Begin to prepare now by discussing with family members what they should do if they are separated when a disaster strikes. Here are some things you can do to get your family prepared. • Have a common contact outside of the region or state so everyone can check in by phone at their first opportunity. Have a place designated locally where everyone is to meet. • Take a second look at the topography around your home. Imagine what might happen if a creek were to get blocked with debris.
Shine cautioned people to be aware flooding may occur where it previously had not. • Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors and other devices. • Have propane on hand to fire up a barbecue pit for cooking. Many generators now run on propane and natural gas. • Get iodine tablets to purify drinking water. These are just some suggestions to get you started. Every family has unique needs to be aware of. For more information on getting prepared for hurricane season visit this website: http://www.nhc. noaa.gov/HAW2/english/disaster_ prevention.shtml or www.ready. gov.