For the Victoria City/County Office of Emergency Management, disaster preparation never stops. Throughout the year, we train our partner agencies to respond to a host of disasters, from hurricanes and floods to hazmat incidents and terrorist attacks.
We especially ramp up our hurricane preparation efforts in May, before the start of hurricane season. We’ve been reaching out to first responders, policymakers and local nonprofits, helping them to plan and prepare so that when a storm hits, everyone will be ready to fulfill their roles.
Whether you’re the leader of a local government agency or a resident trying to protect yourself and your family, preparing now will greatly improve your ability to respond to an emergency.
The memory of Hurricane Harvey is still fresh and painful for many residents, but even if you fared well in that storm, that’s no guarantee that the next one will be a similar experience. Victoria actually got lucky during Harvey: We prepared for a Category 4 storm, but we only experienced Category 1 winds because of the way the storm shifted to the west. If we are hit by a real Category 4, the measures you took during Harvey may not be enough.
One of the first steps of hurricane preparation is making sure you are insured. Because new premiums can take time to take effect, this should be taken care of as soon as possible.
Talk to your agent to make sure you’re covered for any type of damage you may experience. Flood insurance only covers damage from rising water, so if your water damage is a result of rain coming in through a hole in the roof, you may not be covered. Also, even if you’re not a homeowner, renter’s insurance can help to protect your belongings.
If you choose to evacuate, plan your destination and your direction of travel well in advance, and be sure to get on the road early. Remember that the supply chain may be affected even as you move away from a storm, so take supplies with you.
Store important documents in a waterproof container that you can easily move to a safe place. You should also make digital copies.
If you choose to shelter in place, you will need at least five to seven days’ worth of supplies, including nonperishable food; drinking water; medication; and anything you may need to care for pets, seniors or neighbors.
Based on our conversations with utility providers, we know that our region is susceptible to power outages even during a weak storm because of our many aboveground power lines. You should assume that you might lose utilities and that they could remain out for several days. The City has made upgrades to its water system since Harvey, but losing water is still a possibility. Make sure you have a non-electric can opener, batteries and water for flushing the toilet.
Remember that hurricane winds can blow away items in your yard, such as lawn furniture and swing sets. Be sure to move or secure these items so that they don’t turn into debris.
The Office of Emergency Management is watching the tropics and will work with the City and County to release information on any storm that becomes a threat to our region. For more tips on preparing for a storm, you can view the Official South Texas Hurricane Guide from the National Weather Service at www.weather.gov/crp/hurricaneguide. To sign up for emergency text alerts, text “SWIFT911” to 99538.
Rick McBrayer is the emergency management coordinator for the Office of Emergency Management.