October 6th, 2005 06:50 EST
Do Not Be Alarmed. Be Prepared.
Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, as well as the 9/11 terrorist attack of 2001, demonstrated the necessity for a city to be prepared to manage threats and emergencies that may potentially affect the city on a massive scale. Does your city know what to do during a state of emergency? Do you?
If you live in or near my hometown of Houston Texas, you could be subject to numerous natural disasters, such as floods, hurricanes, and severe tropical storms. This city may also be vulnerable-- however unlikely it may be-- to hazardous materials, biological or chemical outbreaks, and maybe even terrorist attacks. According to a March 2005 report to the Governor on Texas Hurricane Preparedness from the Office of Homeland Security, after 9/11 “Texas began to strengthen its ability to plan for and respond to all hazards”.
The City of Houston's Office of Emergency Management, in collaboration with Homeland Security, was established to plan and direct emergency management efforts for the Houston area.
The city’s emergency management plan consists of four aspects, or stages, of emergency management:
Mitigation - Those activities which eliminate or reduce the probability of disaster.
Preparedness - Those activities which governments, organizations and individuals develop to save lives and minimize damage.
Response - Those actions to minimize loss of life and property damage and provide emergency assistance.
Recovery - Those short and long-term activities which restore city operations and help return the community to a normal state.
In city wide emergencies— or in anticipation of them-- local television and radio news broadcasts provide updates, recommendations and instructions for local residents. But what if circumstances prevent you from accessing or receiving that information during or after the city emergency? Maybe you’d feel safer, more secure and more in control if you know in advance what to do, or perhaps you’d rather have information in your hand, instead of waiting for someone to tell you what to do, at what might be the last minute.
Where can you go for general information before a city emergency happens, so that you might be prepared to act autonomously? Locating useful or practical information related to dealing with emergencies can be both confusing and frustrating because there are so many places to look— many of which offer little or nothing more than promotional material for some group or committee, and a maze of networking multi-level agencies and organizations involved, with their interlinking websites. Most of them simply tell you that they do something about emergencies, and not exactly what they do or how they do it, nor what you could or should do.
FEMA, Homeland Security, Red Cross, The Mayor’s or Governor’s Office… who’s in charge, and of what?
Rather than you sifting through and deciphering all that cumbersome information, as I did, I’ll save you the trouble and provide you with some good sources of emergency information specifically for Houston, Texas, but also some general information that may apply to any geographic area.
Here you will find a list of potential city emergencies, advice on what to do during these emergencies, and who to contact.
If it suits you, print out any information to read it at your leisure, save it for later and keep it within easy reach… in case you don’t have internet or phone access in a state of emergency.Houston Emergency Management is responsible for coordinating the City of Houston's preparation for and response to emergency situations.
You can contact the City of Houston's Office of Emergency Management at:
(713) 884-4500 P.O. Box 1562
Houston, TX 77251-1562
OR visit these websites: http://www.houstontx.gov/oem/english.html
Harris County Office of Homeland Security
Federal Emergency Management Agency
United States Government’s Official Website