For years, the Red Cross has told people to have a disaster plan and supplies at the ready. It was a lesson learned the hard way during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. All this time, they were right and the average Houstonian wasn't prepared. Houston Red Cross CEO Davis Henderson says it's not often we'll have a catastrophe as great as the combination of those hurricanes, but you never know when a disaster will strike. He says people need to remember some key lessons learned during last year's hurricane season.
"A lesson learned about money: Cash. It is always good to have a little bit of cash. You know what we learned from our evacuess? Many of them had their -- their savings -- the money that was excess savings, they had it in a banking institution that only had one branch and when that branch lost its electricity -- power -- they were unable to get their cash out. So think about how will I get cash in the event that electricity and power is gone."
In addition to cash, it became clear during the Rita evacuations that drinking water was a serious need. Henderson says people know they should have drinking water stored during hurricane season, but few people thought ahead to bring water with them on the road. And another thing to carry is proof of residence. Many hurricane evacuees had a difficult time securing assistance because they could not prove they lived in the disaster area.
"If they're going to evacuate, bring a drivers license, a utility bill, some proof of residency because Red Cross assistance, FEMA assistance, so much assistance is based on proof of where you were a resident."
Harris County Judge Robert Eckels says people need to start preparing now, because hurricane season is only a few months away. He says he believes Houston is the best-prepared city in the nation.
"What makes us so strong is not that we are so great at our planning, but it is that we are so great at working together to figure out how to adapt those plans to whatever the situation is that we face. And we all had things that came up -- and there's probably no harsher critic of the Katrina/Rita operations than me -- but at the same time, we were able to deal with the problems as they arose within a few hours. It wasn't days or weeks or months."
There are links to complete guides and recommendations for disaster preparedness on our website kuhf dot org. Laurie Johnson Houston Public Radio news.