By: Randy Valcin Director of Public Health Surveillance Programs
GALVESTON COUNTY – Galveston County is no stranger to disasters. While the type may range from hurricane to tropical storm, floods or fires, one thing remains the same. When faced with a disaster, preparing ahead of time is vital to protect family and property. September marks National Preparedness Month and the Galveston County Health District (GCHD) encourages families to take the time now to prepare themselves for the wide variety of disasters they may face. “This year’s theme is ‘Prepared, Not Scared. Be Ready for Disasters’ and it really sums up disaster planning. Being prepared can be the difference between life and death,” said Randy Valcin, director of public health surveillance programs. “While we’ve grown accustomed to hurricanes and flooding in Galveston County, we can’t let our guard down because each storm is different.” Managed and sponsored by the Ready campaign, National Preparedness Month is designed to raise awareness and encourage Americans to take steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, schools, organizations, businesses and places of worship. Save early for disaster costs Most homeowner and renter insurance policies do not cover flood damage. If you add flood insurance, keep in mind most policies take 30 days to go into effect, so don’t wait until it’s too late. Visit www.floodsmart.gov to learn more about flood insurance. “Take the time now to take photos of important documents and personal belongings,” Valcin said. “That includes birth and marriage certificates, immunization records for children and adults, driver license and other photo IDs and Social Security Cards. You also want photo documentation of valuables. It will help you quickly file an insurance claim after a flood, if necessary.” According to the Federal Reserve, 40 percent of Americans don’t have $400 in savings. Disasters can be costly. Start now and set aside a small amount of each paycheck to go into a savings account. Also, keep cash on hand since ATMs and credit card readers may not be available. Cash can help pay for immediate expenses like lodging, food and gas. Put it in writing Now is the time to put an emergency plan in writing. It will help you prepare for if and when a disaster hits and give you a game plan to reference if under pressure.
“If evacuating, know where you plan to go. Having a plan in place when an emergency strikes helps you avoid mistakes. And, it lets you know everyone in the home is on the same page and prepared,” Valcin said. Develop a family emergency communication plan. It is possible family members may become separated from one another during a disaster, especially during the day when adults are at work and children are at school. Plan for touching base and getting back together. Practice fire escape plans by having a home drill at least twice a year with everyone in the home. When it comes to medicine, put prescriptions, emergency contact information for family and doctors, insurance cards and identification together in a plastic bag. “If you haven’t already, sign up for alerts and warnings in your area so that you can stay on top of changing conditions,” Valcin said. Contact your water and power companies to get on a “priority reconnection service” list of power-dependent customers if you rely on electrical medical equipment. Teach youth to prepare for disasters Help children know how to communicate during an emergency. Talk with them about sending text messages, emergency contact numbers and dialing 911 for help. “Now that school has started, update school records and make sure your children know who to contact in an emergency,” Valcin said. Including favorite stuffed animals, board games, books or music in the emergency kit can help comfort children in a disaster. Remember your four-legged family In the hustle of dealing with a disaster, pets sometimes fall to the end of the list. Plan for pets now. “Have copies of vaccination records, a current photo of your pet, an ample supply of food and water, a carrier or cage, medication, muzzle, collar and leash,” Valcin said.
Public Health Services · Coastal Health & Wellness · Emergency Medical Services · Animal Resource Center The Galveston County Health District (GCHD) is the local public health agency for Galveston County, Texas. GCHD provides services and programs that protect the everyday health and well-being of Galveston County. P.O. Box 939 La Marque, Texas 77568 • (409) 938-7221 www.gchd.org