The Galveston County Office of Emergency Management's Planning Division is responsible for a number of planning activities aimed at enhancing the County's preparedness for disasters and emergencies. Probably the most visible product of those planning activities is the Basic Emergency Plan, the comprehensive, all-hazard plan that coordinates the emergency management activities of Galveston County Government. Although the Basic Plan addresses all phases of emergency management, it is specifically oriented toward preparedness and response activities. The Plan is a policy document developed and maintained by the Planning Coordinator, and signed by the County Judge, local Mayors, and Emergency Management Coordinators, upon review and concurrence.
GCOEM develops contingency plans that guide Galveston County's response to natural and man-made emergencies, from extreme weather to hazardous material incidents. Each plan focuses on three components of a disaster: preparedness, initial response, and recovery. The purpose of these plans is to keep Galveston County safe and, following a disaster, to return residents to their daily routines as quickly as possible.
When a plan is activated, GCOEM coordinates the skills of County, city, state, federal, and non-governmental agencies, to ensure the plan is effectively carried out. Large-scale countywide emergencies, like a transit strike or a coastal storm, can require the collaboration of dozens of agencies and thousands of emergency responders. Smaller incidents, such as localized power outages or water main breaks, may only require a handful of agencies to complete restoration.
GCOEM reviews, tests, and revises these plans as intelligence and resources change. The agency enlists subject matter experts from all County agencies, including law enforcement and fire departments, and other non-city groups to advise on aspects of each plan.
A large part of planning is what’s done in addition to coordinating emergency responses. GCOEM works to inform the public of the potential hazards, in an effort to make sure Galveston County residents know how to avoid disasters or act in the event of a disaster. GCOEM encourages residents to educate themselves and others about emergency preparedness.
A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone, the generic term for a low pressure system that generally forms in the tropics. A typical cyclone is accompanied by thunderstorms, and in the Northern Hemisphere, a counterclockwise circulation of winds near the earth’s surface.
All Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas are subject to hurricanes or tropical storms. Parts of the Southwest United States and the Pacific Coast experience heavy rains and floods each year from hurricanes spawned off Mexico. The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to November, with the peak season from mid-August to late October.
Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland. Winds can exceed 155 miles per hour. Hurricanes and tropical storms can also spawn tornadoes and microbursts, create storm surges along the coast, and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall.
Hurricanes are classified into five categories based on their wind speed, central pressure, and damage potential. Category Three and higher hurricanes are considered major hurricanes, though Categories One and Two are still extremely dangerous and warrant your full attention.
Hurricanes can produce widespread torrential rains. Floods are the deadly and destructive result. Slow moving storms and tropical storms moving into mountainous regions tend to produce especially heavy rain. Excessive rain can trigger landslides or mud slides, especially in mountainous regions. Flash flooding can occur due to intense rainfall. Flooding on rivers and streams may persist for several days or more after the storm. Between 1970 and 1999, more people lost their lives from freshwater inland flooding associated with land falling tropical cyclones than from any other weather hazard related to tropical cyclones.
Disaster can strike quickly and without warning. It can force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home. What would you do if basic services--water, gas, electricity or telephones--were cut off? Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone right away. Where will your family be when disaster strikes? They could be anywhere--at work, at school or in the car. How will you find each other? Will you know if your children are safe?
Texas Department of Transportation has published the following printable tri-fold evacuation guides. Choose and download the one for your area.
The zip code Hurricane Evacuation Map can be downloaded here.
Every member of your family should know what he or she needs to take when you evacuate. You also need to prepare supplies for your pet. Stock up on non-perishables well ahead of time, and have everything ready to go at a moment's notice. Keep everything accessible, stored in sturdy containers (duffel bags, covered trash containers, etc.) that can be carried easily.
If you reside in an area prone to certain seasonal disasters, such as flooding or hurricanes that might require evacuation, create a kit to keep in your car.
In your pet disaster kit, you should include:
Other useful items include newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags, grooming items and household bleach.