By McKenna Gazzier
With hurricane season already here, it is imperative that people throughout the Greater Houston area take a closer look into safety precautions. Hurricanes like Ike and Harvey impacted the city of Houston immensely, leaving residents underprepared and, in turn, picking up the pieces of devastating loss. According to forecasters, the 2021 season will be active, with the potential for as many as 21 named storms. To help you and your loved ones prepare, we spoke to Dr. Samuel Prater, Associate Professor and Executive Vice-Chair of Clinical Affairs in the Department of Emergency Medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston and Medical Director of Emergency Services at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, who shared his tips for this hurricane season.
- Getting Prepared
To avoid a last-minute emergency, Prater advises preparing for a potential hurricane by stocking up on necessities. “You want to have water for several days in case there is any disruption to clean water supply,” said Prater. “Batteries for flashlights, a radio in case of Wi-Fi shortage, access to a generator if you can, and refill any medical prescriptions that may run low.” Prater also advises that if your family needs to evacuate, plans should be made sooner rather than later, with locals in Greater Houston evacuating “farther North or West of Houston” to avoid the coastal regions.
2. Stay Informed
Prater advises people to check flood maps often, research preparation tactics for your home and belongings, and most importantly, to understand generator safety. Hurricane Laura in Lake Charles left the city in shambles, but the number one cause of death in the city was improper use of generators, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. “The biggest thing to focus on is the preventable injuries, like carbon monoxide poisoning,” said Prater. “If people have access to a generator, it’s important that they know to locate the generator far away from the house, maybe chained to a tree, instead of near a window or in their garage.” Prater also advises people to invest in a carbon monoxide monitor installed near their smoke alarms in their homes. “This is how people accidentally poison themselves; if nobody recognizes the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, the symptoms will only get worse, leading to completely preventable causes of death after hurricanes.”
3. Knowing To Stay Home or Evacuate
Prater says everyone should make a plan of action based on their potential hurricane hazard zones. “If you have to stay local, the safest place to be is inside; don’t be a witness to the weather conditions of the outdoors.” With the potential of flooding here in Houston, Prater recommends using resources like Houston TranStar for access to emergency information, road closures, or unsafe roads of travel. “If you have to travel and you see a flooded roadway, do not cross it,” said Prater. “All of the information you need about the roadways can be accessed through maps from local authorities and news reports.”
4. Preparing Your Home
If you are staying local during a hurricane, Prater suggests boarding your house and securing your outside belongings. For objects like lawn chairs and outside furniture, “move them into a building like a garage,” said Prater. “Board up your windows ahead of time, purchase hurricane shutters if you have the means, and most importantly, secure objects so they don’t become dangerous projectiles.”
5. In Case of Emergency
In the event of a state of emergency due to lack of preparation or faulty preparation systems, Prater advises everyone to “stay inside and hunker down – if there is a medical emergency, call 911, and if it is a quick-fix emergency, reach out to friends and neighbors for extra supplies.” Prater enforced that one of the most important things to remember is that preparing ahead of time is the best thing you can do to keep yourself and your family safe.
Additional resources on hurricane preparedness: