Participants at the day long conference shared one commonality — Hurricane Ike. Dr. C. Vipu of the University of Houston coordinated the gathering. He says recovering from a hurricane involves reacting to problems that could affect the process.
“An example where we lost power, but losing power causes so many other problems: from traffic to water supply, to the breakage of sewer lines and things of that nature, and it’s a complex problem and we have to address it together so that we will minimize the recovery time.”
Dennis Storemski is the Director of Public Safety and Homeland Security for the City of Houston. He says lessons learned from the experience of the event itself are crucial to preparing for the next hurricane hit.
“We prepared for Hurricane Rita and the issue there was evacuation and the gridlock on the freeways, and we think we fixed that. And then we actually take a hit from Ike and we lose power and all the impact that results from that so, I think that’s the challenge now. But the main thing is to continue to inform the public to be prepared.”
Sometimes preparation is not always the answer, as Dr Renu Khator, chancellor and president of the University of Houston found out.
“Right after the hurricane the campus was in a much sound situation. We had the building fare, we had electricity, we had water. We decided to open the school and I learned the hard way that the city wasn’t prepared, that there were many areas around the university that weren’t ready for us so, we have learned a lot of lessons. We have hardened our campus, but at the same time we have created better networks now to be able to coordinate better.”
State Representative Bill Callegari of Katy authored legislation that created the Hurricane Center at the University of Houston. He heard discussion on a lot of issues that come from hurricane recovery.
“We can’t look at everything. We’ve got to focus on the most immediate problems and from there, let the Hurricane Center develop its agenda, if you will. But begin to focus on the two or three that are the most important to this community and to the state.”
Government forecasters lowering their outlook for this Atlantic hurricane season was some relief to conference attendees. But Galveston County Judge Jim Yarborough says no one should forget that all it takes is one.
“We’re constantly trying to improve to do our part better, but if people have an individual plan for themselves, and they know what they’re gonna do, where they’re gonna go, what they’re gonna prepare for, it makes the back end to recovery so much easier.”
PH, KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.