|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - June 2009
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Disaster preparedness a hot topic at subdivision meeting
Polk County Enterprise - June 2009
LIVINGSTON – Disaster preparedness was the topic of discussion at the June Subdivision Directors meeting on Wednesday. Presidents from several Polk County subdivision Property Owner’s Associations (POA) met for training so they can prepare their respective communities for a disaster everyone hopes will never come. Polk County Office of Emergency Management (PCOEM) Coordinator Larry Shine was the guest speaker. He identified four separate disasters each resident should be prepared for. “Floods are the most likely catastrophic event to expect in Polk County,” Shine said. “Forest fires are No. 2 followed by tornadoes and hurricanes. Nobody can prepare for everything.
God just wants you to know you are not in charge.” Flooding is very likely to occur, Shine believes, because of the significant amount of debris still on the ground from Hurricane Ike. “The county commissioners’ worst fears are that we get 10 inches of rain,” Shine said. “A heavy rain like that would lift the debris up and carry it downstream. Once it hits a bridge or culvert there will be blockage and you would get flooding in places where you may never have seen it before.” He said just six inches of water over the road can make a car float. The folks who think they know the road like the back of their hand are the most likely to be washed downstream, according to Shine. “The water is going to be a dirty brown because it is coming out of the woods,” Shine said. “People won’t know how deep it is and they could just float away.”
Some things people can do to prepare for a flood are to first purchase flood insurance for your home, prepare a prestorm evacuation plan for your family, strap down the propane tank so it doesn’t float away and have enough supplies on hand to survive three to five days in the event you are stranded. “State resources will go to Houston first if they need it. We are last on the food chain,” Shine said. “Be prepared to survive on your own for three to five days and help will get to you by then.” The county has only four boats in its emergency response arsenal according to Onalaska Fire Chief Roy Newport. However, the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) shares information on what resources are available and where they are located. Shine cautioned everyone to be aware of who in the family has special needs such as supplemental oxygen or other medical equipment requiring electricity at all times. These folks are encouraged to evacuate to a pre-storm shelter before the storm hits so emergency crews are free to tend to other needs during the storm. Be aware of your neighbors and their situation.
Many people rely on the Meals-on-Wheels program which goes away in times of emergency. Have a little extra on hand so you can feed an extra mouth or two. “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 find 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 need 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. Anyone who thinks they or a loved one might benefit from this type of pre-disaster planning is encouraged to contact Jago at 936-327-6867. “Pre-storm shelters are the county’s responsibility,” Jago said. The Red Cross does not open pre-storm shelters.
“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 shelter volunteers are needed though, according to Jago. For more information please go to www.pcoem.org.