Men's Breakfast Report, September 2007
The Men’s Breakfast Group met Saturday, September 8 with John Stanford, Freeport Fire Chief and emergency management coordinator.
John has been involved with the Fire Department for twenty-five years, mostly as a volunteer but the last three as the paid chief. Emergency management is a part time function of the chief. The main topic of the meeting was to discuss hurricane preparations.
Everybody remembered their experiences with Hurricane Rita. John said that new and improved systems are in place so that evacuation should not be as difficult next time. The major change is that people will not be required to take the designated routes but can go off on side roads. However, the state will only provide fuel and facilities on the designated routes. If you go off on a side road you will be on your own.
A major concern is the evacuation of people with special needs or without automobiles. The state has set up a 211 system to take care of these people. However, the 211 system is primarily for general welfare such as food stamps and Medicaid with evacuation as just an add-on at the end of a long menu. Very few people have called it so John thinks that most people who need assistance in evacuation are not in the system. When Freeport personnel find people who will need help but are not in the system they are put into the system. People in the system are ranked by the severity of their need. The highest, ranked 5, requires an ambulance to evacuate them. The lowest, ranked 1, needs no help. Originally, evacuation from Freeport was to be by BISD busses starting from the Intermediate Schools close to the time of landfall. The 211 system requires that evacuees from Freeport assemble at Angleton. This is most of the way to safety and people who could get to Angleton on their own could probably make it the rest of the way to Houston and safety. Therefore the emergency management people will have to transport these people to Angleton in advance of the storm, a much longer distance than to the Intermediate Schools. This means that evacuation for these people must start several days before landfall and tie up city personnel at this time. John thinks that they can handle it.
We discussed the possibility of an interfaith disaster committee to help with evacuation. This would involve church members bringing people to the intermediate schools for transport by school busses near evacuation time. John said that this could be helpful, but that the churches would have to organize it themselves.
We also discussed other aspects of hurricane preparation. One thing that has been done since Rita has been to improve the emergency generator systems at hospitals and police stations. Now all generators are located well above ground level so they will operate during a flood. The provision of fuel for the generators and the pumping stations was also discussed. Because they do not trust natural gas to be available during a hurricane, the generators and pump stations are fueled with diesel fuel. A problem with diesel fuel is that it is susceptible to bacteria growing in it making it unusable. Therefore it can not be stored for long periods of time. This means that fuel must be delivered to the generators and pump stations when a hurricane appears possible, and then the fuel removed if it is not needed. This raises questions about availability in an emergency, especially if there is little warning.
As usual, the men had an interesting discussion and a good breakfast. All men are invited to the next breakfast, Saturday, October 13.