W. Nim Kidd, Chief, Division of Emergency Management, Texas Department of Public Safety.
HOUSTON — ImpactWeather and StormGeo held the 26th annual Hurricane Symposium on Thursday (July 9) at the Marriott West Loop. The event emcee was Frank Billingsley, the Chief Meteorologist at KPRC Channel 2.
The Symposium featured ten speakers with presentations designed to inform the business professional, emergency operations manager, risk specialist, business continuity coordinator and others who want to be prepared with the latest advancements and information during hurricane season.
This year’s program was entitled, “Aftermath,” and focused on the actions recommended by experts in the days and weeks following a major storm, both from business and individual viewpoints.
Derek Ortt, Tropical Meteorologist with StormGeo, presented a new way of predicting hurricane tracks with more accuracy and lead-time, enabling businesses to prepare in a timelier fashion.
Andrew Hagen, Tropical Meteorologist with StormGeo, gave a history of aerial hurricane reconnaissance, beginning with the first flight in 1943 and ending with current unmanned (drone) aircraft being used today.
Dave Gorham, Senior Meteorologist with StormGeo, presented about hurricane readiness, emphasizing that most businesses and individuals who think they are ready are actually not as prepared as they could be. He said that the four main focuses of a hurricane kit are food, water, prescription medications and technology, primarily cell phones.
Gorham suggested some upgrades to the typical hurricane kit: hand sanitizer, rain gear, a map with the applicable evacuation routes highlighted, insect repellent, extra pairs of eyeglasses, soap and to take a CPR class before hurricane season begins. He also suggested adding a pet emergency kit, if applicable, including vaccination records and proof of ownership in the form of photographs in case the pet gets separated from the owner.
Gorham also suggested several resources. Taking an online class at ReadyHoustonTX.gov takes about 90 minutes. Pre-registering an elderly or disabled person (anyone who may need professional assistance in an evacuation) for the State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry (STEAR) at TexasSTEAR.org takes just a few minutes, but will save precious time when a storm is approaching.
For more detailed training, many cities offer Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) classes, which typically are 12 weeks long. To locate a local CERT class, visit https://www.fema.gov/community-emergency-response-teams. Gorham also reminded the attendees about 2-1-1, which connects callers with a myriad of services.
Gorham said that the guideline for water is to have one gallon per person per day on hand. A family of four needs only about six cases of water for seven days. For people who plan to use a bathtub to store water, Gorham suggested visiting MyWaterSafe.com, which sells hurricane water storage systems and collapsible water containers.
A seven-day supply of food per person is the guideline for readiness according to Gorham. He suggested stocking up on food that has a long shelf life and mentioned that self-heating meals are now available. He gave two resources for online companies that will deliver convenient, long-lasting meals for storage to the home: WiseFoodStorage.com and TheReadyStore.com.
Technology-wise, Gorham emphasized the Twitter application, available for most smartphones, tablets and computers. Twitter is an online social networking service that enables users to send and read short 140-character messages called “tweets.” Gorham suggested several accounts to follow to get the latest emergency information available: @TxDOT, @DisasterPIO, @FEMA, @RedCross, @GalvCountyOEM, @HouChron, @KPRC2Weather, @HellerWeather and @ChronSciGuy.
Gorham also suggested downloading the Red Cross and FEMA apps, “Get a Game Plan,” which is an app containing tips, suggestions and resources about hurricane planning from the state of Louisiana and Life 360, a location-based service that allows family members to share their location with each other in real time. All of these apps are available in the App Store (for Apple iOS users) and Android Central or Google Play (for Android users).
For a larger group, such as a neighborhood, Gorham suggested NextDoor.com, a private social network limited to residents of a subdivision or community that may be joined by invitation only.
W. Nim Kidd, Chief, Division of Emergency Management, Texas Department of Public Safety, discussed how the state manages and directs its resources and assets in the face of a disaster such as the aftermath of a hurricane. Chief Kidd said that mayors and county judges are the official directors of their area’s emergency management and are the ones to order evacuations.
Kidd suggested that each person keep a piece of paper with important phone numbers on it with them at all times, as many people are used to just pressing a button to call a loved one and don’t have the number memorized. He suggested that Twitter users follow @TX_Alerts to be notified of Amber and Silver Alerts and @TDEM to get updates from the Texas Dept. of Emergency Management.
Kevin Oden, Assistant Emergency Management Coordinator for the City of Dallas Office of Emergency Management, spoke about how inland cities can be prepared to host disaster evacuees efficiently. He recounted his experiences with Hurricanes Gustav and Ike and what persons evacuating from a disaster should expect from a receiving city and what the receiving city should expect from those evacuating.
Francisco Sanchez, the Liaison for Harris County Homeland Security and Emergency Management, discussed returning to Harris County after a major storm, including understanding SWEAT (safety, water, energy, access and telecommunications), plus reentry or not (for the public), credentialed personnel and the start of recovery and individual assistance.
Sanchez asked the audience to name some recent disasters and was jovially heckled by an attendee that shouted, “Blue Bell!” Sanchez joined the audience in laughter and then agreed that the lack of Texas’ trademark ice cream was indeed a disaster.
Gary Scheibe, the Security Manager for Shell Deer Park, discussed “PEARing Down the Aftermath.” The PEAR acronym stands for Protecting People, Environment, Assets and your Reputation.
Justen Noakes, Director of Emergency Preparedness for H-E-B, presented how H-E-B responds to a disaster and its desire to do more than simply re-open its doors in the aftermath of a hurricane.
Chris Hebert, Senior Meteorologist and Lead Hurricane Forecaster with StormGeo, discussed the 2015 Atlantic Basin tropical forecast. Hebert said that this season is forecasted to have lower activity than historical averages.
Finally, Josh Morgerman, renowned hurricane chaser with iCyclone, presented first-person video from his experiences chasing category-5 Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines (2013) and Hurricane Odile in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico (2014).
To learn more about the Hurricane Symposium, visit http://hurricanesymposium.com/.