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Texas Ice Storm Inspires Community Preparedness Workshop

The ice storm earlier this year caught most of Texas by surprise and crippled communities. This preparedness workshop aims to educate residents on what to expect next time and how to be better prepared.

BIZ-REPORT-BULK-OF-FEBRUARY-POWER-1-AU.jpg
Jose Nives tries to shovel his way out after getting stuck in the middle of the street. A winter storm that brought snow, ice and plunging temperatures across Central Texas shut down roads and caused the electrical grid to shut down, leaving thousands of people without power.
Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-St/TNS
The February ice storm this year caught Texans by surprise and left more than 4 million households without power and as many as 13 million people without tap water.

That event spurred Paul Harvey, emergency management coordinator of Lakeway, Texas, to set up public workshops to educate the public on how to prepare in the case of any natural or manmade hazard.

Harvey conducted the first workshop last week, using the ice storm as a backdrop as residents from Lakeway and neighboring towns soaked up some of Harvey’s 25 years of experience in emergency management and also engaged in lively discussions about their experiences during the ice storm.

Harvey talked about having a go-kit, having a communication plan for family and friends, and understanding what possible hazards were most likely to occur in the area and where to get resources on them, such as Ready.gov and FEMA.

Harvey had FEMA materials for a multitude of hazards that may occur in the area for those in attendance, but also did a lot of listening to the attendees and what they had been through.

“That dialog really helped a lot. There was a lot of back and forth, a lot of questions and answers and helping people to understand that a disaster can happen at any time and they should focus on themselves and their neighbors,” Harvey said. “To listen to their stories about what happened in the ice storm and the lessons learned, that helped me identify resources and tools to help them be better prepared for the next storm.”

Harvey said having a family communication plan is essential. “How are you going to communicate with your family if you can’t use cellphones or landlines?” he asked. “We talked a lot about the advantage of using social media platforms to keep families involved.”

He said the family plan should include a person everyone can reach who can facilitate getting the family together. “If I can’t keep up with my family or we get separated, we all know we’re going to contact Aunt Sallie and make sure she knows where we are to get us back together,” Harvey said.

He said the kit should include food and water, a flashlight, blankets, clothes and toiletry items, and medication as the basics for any disaster. “Those basic necessities help you handle being on your own in case there is a loss of power or utility loss.”

Citizens have to understand that they may be on their own for a few days until first responders are able to help. “[Being prepared] takes some of the burden off emergency management and law enforcement to be able to respond to those who need it,” Harvey said.

He said this workshop was the first of many. “It was really an introduction to being prepared. I’m going to be having discussions with key individuals in the community, and we’re going to do online discussions about being prepared.”
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