City of Friendswood girds for storm season
In addition to bringing sometimes shocking hardships and challenges, Hurricane Harvey and other storms that have affected Friendswood provided lessons for the city and residents, according to an emergency management official.
“Our job here is to help coordinate and make sure all the city departments are ready,” said Brian Mansfield, the city’s fire marshal and emergency management coordinator. “Fire, EMS and police have all made changes, like adding high-water vehicles and boats and performing training to make sure they have everything they need to respond to an event, especially a water-related event. We’ve learned from past storms and rain events and have incorporated those lessons into our planning as well.”
With hurricane season beginning on June 1, the Friendswood Office of Emergency Management met with key players in the city’s hurricane plan to ensure everything is in place.
“We met with community partners, utility companies, city departments to make sure everyone is on the same page in case of an event,” Mansfield said. “We also have contracts in place for debris removal, debris monitoring, emergency equipment such as generators, light towers and barricades to make sure they’re in place and ready to implement if we need it.”
Memories are fresh from the horrific damage in the city caused in August 2017 by Hurricane Harvey flooding, which destroyed 194 homes, put people out of work and left poignant images of destruction and people’s resilience, such as pastor Aric Harding playing a ruined piano in his flooded home on Instagram. The city is considering what steps it should take to reduce future flooding risk.
The city’s Facebook page has reflected the coming storm season. A May 9 message provided a grim warning about the dangers of driving on flooded streets, and another post reported a planned hurricane preparedness meeting hosted by the city and Friendswood Public Library at 10-11:30 a.m. Thursday, May 30 and at 6:30 p.m. June 6 at the library, 416 S. Friendswood Drive.
Plan for the unexpected
Mansfield said it’s equally important that residents prepare as well.
“Have a plan, and come up with it now,” Mansfield said. “If they have to evacuate, where do they go and how do they accomplish that? If they’re going to stay, what do they need and how do they accomplish that? Do they have power? Enough food and water to support them? Medication? Every household is different and everyone has their own internal needs; so depending on those, they need to make sure they have everything essential to them, whether they’re sheltering in place or evacuating.”
Part of that plan, Mansfield said, should include what a family will do in case of a mandatory evacuation.
“If you can, evacuate early, and we encourage people to evacuate the way they know how,” he said. “Know the routes, know how to navigate them. Sometimes, the way you know best might not be accessible; so know ways around that as well.”
If a mandatory evacuation is ordered, officials urge residents to take those orders seriously, mostly for their own safety, but also because a large, destructive storm can leave a community without resources for an extended period.
“Once there’s a mandatory evacuation you have limited resources,” he said. “Not just fire, police and EMS, because we’re still here, but they can only respond when it’s safe for them to respond. But remember that businesses will be required to allow their employees to evacuate and take care of their families.”
Places residents need to sustain themselves, such as grocery stores, banks, gas stations, hardware stores and restaurants, may not be open — sometimes for long periods, Mansfield said.
People who have trouble evacuating — whether that’s due to lack of transportation, limited mobility, financial restraints or other reasons — can visit dps.texas.gov/dem/stear/public.htm, or call 2-1-1, both of which are programs run by the state of Texas that help local municipalities evacuate residents who might not be able to evacuate on their own. Mansfield urged residents who might not be able to leave without help or outside resources to register as early as possible.
Know what your insurance covers
Another step city spokesman Jeff Newpher advises for residents is to not only have insurance but to understand what it covers.
Even if residents don’t live in a flood plain, he said, the price of the insurance is nominal compared to the peace of mind and the help it would provide if flooding occurs.
“Just because someone has windstorm insurance doesn’t mean it will cover a flood,” he said. “Now is the time to familiarize yourself with that.”