BEAUMONT, Texas -- At the start of the fifth annual Texas Hurricane Conference hosted by the Governor?s Division of Emergency Management (GDEM), officials with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security?s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and GDEM remind travel trailer residents to be ready to evacuate when storms form in the Gulf.
"Think safety first," advises Sandra Cooley, the senior FEMA official for the Beaumont area field office. "Don?t wait until June 1st to prepare for hurricane season. We urge residents to develop a family emergency plan now, know your evacuation route and stay informed." Hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30.
Although Hurricane Rita made landfall in September 2005, FEMA maintains a strong presence in Jefferson and surrounding counties to support the housing needs for those who were forced out of their homes by Rita. Cooley stressed that FEMA travel trailers are considered temporary housing solutions and never meant to provide safe and sturdy shelter during high wind events.
At peak occupancy, FEMA leased 4,603 travel trailers to 4,297 households across Southeast Texas. (Larger families may require multiple units.) The number of FEMA travel trailers in use continues to decrease as more pre-disaster renters find available apartments and homeowners finish their repair and restoration work. Currently, 1,654 households remain in 1,791 units.
"The single greatest natural threat to coastal Texas is a catastrophic hurricane," said Frank Cantu, state coordinator for response and recovery at GDEM. "We must work together to ensure the safety of Texas families and to prepare the host communities and residents before a crisis." The 2007 Texas Hurricane Conference for representatives of coastal and inland communities to plan and coordinate preparedness and response activities will be held in Galveston May 8-10.
Thousands of thunderstorms strike Texas every year, many of them severe. The National Weather Service defines a severe thunderstorm as one that produces winds of at least 58 miles an hour, or hail three-fourths of an inch in diameter, or a tornado.
Straight-line winds (winds in excess of 100 miles an hour) can uproot trees and cause substantial damage to permanent structures?let alone travel trailers.
Travel trailers are anchored to the ground at the front and in the rear, but it is considered unsafe to try to remain in them during high winds. Do not take or move FEMA trailers! They are federal property and illegal to move without authorization.
"Our travel trailer field representatives-all hired locally-advise occupants to be ready for an evacuation and to heed the orders of their local officials or law enforcement officers," said Cooley. "And if ordered to evacuate, leave the FEMA trailers in place."
To prepare for an evacuation:
- Keep fuel in your vehicle.
- Make sure you know your evacuation route.
- Tie down items left outside. These may become projectiles due to high winds and should be placed inside your trailer. If an item won't fit inside, secure it as best you can outside.
- Let your local emergency management officials know in advance if you will need assistance to evacuate.
- Keep tuned to weather news on television or radio.
- Have your disaster preparation kit ready, or go to www.ready.gov for help to create one.
- Keep cash on hand.
- If you have special needs, alert officials in advance by calling 2-1-1.
If your local officials order an evacuation, do the following:
- Close and lock your windows.
- Close and lock the roof vent.
- Turn off the electricity at the main circuit...