It is never too soon to start preparing for the next disaster. By looking back on the actions taken before, during and after Hurricane Harvey, we learn how to improve communications and evacuation plans well before another hurricane makes landfall.
On August 25th, Hurricane Harvey made landfall. The state of Texas is still assessing the damage to Houston and surrounding areas, but after record flooding, approximately 200,000 homes were damaged and 13,500 were destroyed.
Now, just days after the storm, the Caribbean Islands and the state of Florida are bracing for extreme weather as well. Hurricane Irma, which hit Puerto Rico and the Northern Caribbean with devastating force, is already one of the most powerful storms ever recorded. Irma bore down with 185 mph winds, and brings with it storm surge and rainfall hazards, both of which could result in devastating floods.
It’s important to look at the response to Hurricane Harvey and consider the lessons from the storm. It is never too soon to start preparing for the next disaster, and by looking at past incidents, it becomes clear there are step we can take to improve response time and communications.
Weather Forecast Reliability
To start, FEMA warns against rely too much on the five day forecast. The government agencies and citizens shouldn’t underestimate a natural disaster, and hurricane damage can be unpredictable. According to administrator Brock Long, “The five day forecast is very hard to depict. I think that everybody needs to be monitoring this in the Gulf and up the East Coast and watching this very carefully to see what changes happen.” When it comes to hurricane preparation, it’s important not to rely on a single weather report and to anticipate any outcome.
Brock Long offers more insight into what public safety officials and emergency managers can be doing to enhance community readiness and avoid the disaster of delayed Mass Evacuation in this webinar co-produced by Brock Long and Rave Mobile Safety.
Communities should pay attention to evacuation orders and emergency advisories, and follow them to the best of their ability. The state of Florida has provided plenty of shelter space, and home damage can be addressed after the storm passes. Getting to safety is the most important step. Emergency suppliers should be in position, and facilities like hospitals and nursing homes should be trained and poised to evacuate as well.
Leveraging Social Media
Utilize social media when appropriate. During Hurricane Harvey, many victims turned to Facebook or Twitter for help as floodwaters rose. First responders recommend using 911 and local emergency numbers first, but during Harvey many issued cries for help over social media. Hashtags like #sosHarvey and #helphouston were used to flag citizens in need, and the account @HarveyRescue documented the names and addresses of people in need of help. While it is always best to rely on 911 for emergencies, social media has proven an important tool for spreading awareness and information.
Make an emergency kit. It’s important to have supplies on hand in case of disaster. A well put together emergency kit should have a three day supply of non-perishable food and water, flashlight, batteries, blankets, and any medicine or prescriptions your family might need. For more ideas about a basic disaster supplies kit, check out the FEMA website.
Repairing the Damage
Hurricane Irma is an unprecedented storm. By reflecting on Hurricane Harvey and past emergency situations, it will be possible to further minimize the amount of people harmed by the disaster. The communities impacted will need support as they continue to pick up the pieces and rebuild.
Remember, donating home goods can interfere with relief efforts, and the best way to help hurricane victims is to donate cash to trusted organizations.
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