End of Hurricane Season Doesn’t Mean End of Preparation

There is a collective sigh of relief as the 2009 hurricane season ends without a hurricane hitting the area. But officials have used the time to hone their response in the event one does strike in the future. Pat Hernandez has the story.

Barring any tropical disturbance that could turn into something to respond to, Harris County Judge Edd Emmett considers the month before the end of  hurricane season as the “wind-down” time.

“The whole season formed late, actually. The first named storm didn’t come up till August, I guess it was, and it just an unusual year. Which tells us once again, next year and in future years when people say, ‘Oh, this is gonna be a terrible season or, this is gonna be an easy season’ — we just ignore all that pretty much, and we just assume that we’re gonna get hit by a hurricane and make plans accordingly. If we don’t, we celebrate this time of year.”

Emmett says Hurricane Ike certainly gave everybody involved in response something to learn from, but that goes for an inactive season as well.

“In fact, the Harris County Office of Emergency Management is just that: emergency management. Hurricanes, those are the most obvious example of an emergency in our area. But we have other natural disasters: tornadoes for example, floods. We could have another Allison event that’s clearly an emergency. And then you have the man-made disasters and the office is preparing all the time for all of those things.”

Mark Sloan: “Throughout the entire year, we have to be ready and prepared for whatever Mother Nature may throw our way.”

Mark Sloan is Homeland Security Emergency Management coordinator for Harris County.

“Everybody thought that because it was a slow year, we didn’t have much to do, and it’s the exact opposite. We’re actually busier now, preparing and planning, practicing with all of our partners throughout the region and the state, which keeps us incredibly busy.”

He says response to past hurricanes is not only valuable lessons learned, but an opportunity to improve the response.

“There are always issues that arise when a disaster occurs. It’s not an every day emergency that becomes routine. A disaster sometimes waits three, five, seventeen years. So you always have to document what occurred, how you responded and reacted to it, so that you can be better for it in the future, and that’s an ongoing process.”

His office has presented hundreds of disaster drills this year to help residents prepare for, respond to and recover from disaster. Sloan says being ready is the key.

“As we come in to June 1st of next year and May, you’re gonna hear the messages again: make a plan, build a kit, stay informed, understand the risk and the threat that we have.”


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