Prepare Your Family
An evacuation plan should be created and reviewed with all participants every year. When forming an evacuation plan, here are some things to consider:
- Stay alert, stay calm, and be informed. Tuning in to local radio and television stations is important. Listen to your local radio and television stations carefully as there may be additional or modified directions based on the best available information at that time.
- The Texas Department of Transportation has hurricane information, evacuation maps, and up-to-date road conditions available on their website. Visit these webpages for assistance: https://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/division/traffic/safety/weather/hurricane.html and https://drivetexas.org.
- Evacuation plans should consider all members of a household, especially those with special health needs. Practice evacuation procedures annually. Parents should learn their child’s school’s evacuation plans and confirm where students will be held and for how long in the event of a disaster. Parents should not drive to school to pick up their children unless directed to do so by school officials.
- If needed, develop a plan to help the disabled or those with limited mobility. If people with special health needs are with a care-provider, confirm that the care-provider has an evacuation plan.
- Develop a plan for your pets. Be advised that not all shelters take pets. Listen to local radio or check with the American Red Cross to determine if there are any pet-friendly shelter locations nearby. Plan ahead and visit the Humane Society of the United States for information on creating evacuation kits for your pet: https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/make-disaster-plan-your-pets. Microchip pets at your veterinarian’s office or local Humane Society well in advance of a storm event to aid in the quick identification and return of your pet in case you are separated during an emergency.
- Consider how family members and friends will communicate if they become separated. Create a list of telephone numbers and email addresses of everyone in the family and phone numbers of a few contacts outside of the family.
- Vehicles should be kept in good operating condition and gas tanks should be full. Ensure all emergency kits are packed.
Prepare Your Property
In addition to preparing a stock of emergency supplies, an evacuation kit, and an evacuation plan, there are preparations you and your family should take to secure your property before you evacuate.
- Wedge sliding glass doors with a brace or broom handle to prevent them from being lifted from their tracks or being ripped loose by wind vibrations.
- Deploy window protections well in advance of the arrival of any winds.
- Bring in any outdoor objects such as patio furniture, hanging plants, trashcans, large planters, and barbecue grills.
- Adjust refrigerator temperatures to the coldest settings to reduce the potential for food spoiling if the power is temporarily lost. If power is lost during the event, try not to open the refrigerator unless necessary. Put several containers of water in the freezer — this will help keep items frozen or cold longer.
- Package valuables, such as jewelry, titles, deeds, insurance papers, licenses, etc., for safekeeping in waterproof containers. Do not forget to protect your family photos. Large plastic zipper seal bags make for quick and secure storage of your irreplaceable family memories.
- All digital information should be fully backed up, preferably offsite. If you leave your home, it is wise to take your hard drive with you. If you have everything already backed up on an external drive, take that with you as well. Protect any hard drives that remain in your home.
- If an evacuation is necessary, shut off electricity at the main switch near the meter, turn off gas to prevent leaks from occurring, and turn off water to prevent flooding from broken pipes.
- Store chemicals, fertilizers, or other toxic materials in a safe section or secure area of the premises. Propane tanks should not be stored near sources of heat.
- Moor boats securely or move them to designated safe areas well in advance of hurricanes. Do not attempt to tow a trailer or boat in high winds.
The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is the official source of natural hazard information and instructions in Texas. This information can originate from county, state, or federal agencies. The statewide network may be activated by the National Weather Service to disseminate weather-related watches or warnings.
If an alarm sounds, turn on the radio. Some radios with the NOAA weather radio band turn on automatically when an emergency broadcast through the EAS is announced. The NOAA weather radio station broadcasts round-the-clock weather information and announcements from the EAS system. Many local radio stations voluntarily agree to participate in the EAS system (see radio stations). Apps are also available for download that will deliver weather alerts to your smart phone. Additional information may be issued on local or cable television networks, and through local community websites or social media.
When listening to alerts, note the difference between a hazard watch and a hazard warning. Definitions of watches, warnings, and hazards are provided below. Depending on the alert, there are different actions to take. Also, note that civil defense or emergency management agencies may issue a mandatory evacuation in the case of a hurricane warning.
Familiarize yourself with these terms:
Flood Watch. Issued when flash flooding or flooding is possible within the designated watch area. Homeowners should be prepared to move to higher ground and should listen to NOAA weather radio, local radio, or local television stations for information.
Flood Warning. Issued when flash flooding or flooding has been reported or is imminent. Take necessary precautions at once and avoid going through flooded areas as the force of the water may cause your vehicle to drift into the water. Turn around, don’t drown. If advised to evacuate to higher ground, do so immediately.
Tropical Depression. An organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 38 miles per hour (33 knots) or less. Sustained winds are defined as one minute average wind measured at about 33 feet (10 meters) above the surface.
Tropical Storm. An organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39-73 miles per hour (34-63 knots).
Tropical Storm Watch. Issued when there is a good possibility of tropical storm conditions and associated damaging winds, surf, and flooding rains occurring anytime within 36 hours. Homeowners should prepare their homes and review plans for evacuation in case a tropical storm warning is issued.
Tropical Storm Warning. Issued when there is a high probability of tropical storm conditions occurring anytime within 24 hours. Homeowners should complete all storm preparations and leave the threatened area if directed by local officials. A tropical storm warning may not always be preceded by a tropical storm watch.
Hurricane. An intense tropical weather system of strong thunderstorms with a well-defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 miles per hour (64 knots) or higher.
Hurricane Watch. Issued when there is a good possibility of hurricane conditions and associated damaging winds, surf, and flooding rains occurring anytime within 36 hours. Homeowners should prepare their homes and review plans for evacuation in case a hurricane warning is issued.
Hurricane Warning. Issued when there is a high probability of hurricane conditions occurring anytime within 24 hours. Homeowners should complete all storm preparations and leave the threatened area if directed by local officials. A hurricane warning may not always be preceded by a hurricane watch.
Storm Surge. A dome of water pushed onshore by hurricane and tropical storm winds. Storm surges can reach 25 feet high and be 50-100 miles wide.
Storm Tide. A combination of storm surge and the normal tide (i.e., a 15- foot storm surge combined with a 2-foot normal high tide over the mean sea level creates a 17-foot storm tide).