Houston and UTHealth Prepare for Hurricane Season

Lex Frieden to address June 1 hurricane workshop

Published May 28, 2013 by Rob Cahill

The June 1 start of the Atlantic hurricane season is fast approaching and preparedness is on everyone’s mind. The Houston/Galveston National Weather Service will host its 2013 Hurricane Workshop on Saturday, June 1 from 10 am – 3 pm at the George R. Brown Convention Center. The workshop aims to prepare residents for hurricane season through presentations, interactive exhibits, hurricane forecasting and more. This free event is family-friendly and open to the public, and is the largest of its kind in the nation with more than 2,500 attendees each year.

UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics professor Lex Frieden will address the audience at this year’s workshop.

No one has to tell Frieden, a wheelchair user, how important disaster preparedness is for people with disabilities. He had a close call during Tropical Storm Allison back in 2001.

When floodwaters jumped the banks of a bayou near his home, Frieden found himself stranded in his living room in about two feet of water. “I knew that was about as high as it was going to get. But it was a little disconcerting,” Frieden recalled.

Frieden will mark the start of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season by giving an address on disaster planning for people with disabilities at the June 1 workshop.

Frieden said planning ahead is particularly important for people who rely on electrically powered machinery like wheelchairs to get around or who have service animals that may have to be evacuated, too.

That’s why Frieden created a website called Disability911.com where people can go for information on disaster preparedness specifically designed for people with disabilities.

UTHealth Medical School flood doors pass muster

At the university last weekend, UTHealth safety chief Robert Emery, DrPH, and other safety officials tested the 23 outer and inner flood doors at the Medical School and report that everything is operating properly. The submarine-type doors were installed after Tropical Storm Allison flooded the school.

“At UTHealth, we use the beginning of hurricane season as a time to review plans, test systems and remind all of our faculty, staff and students about the importance of having an ‘all hazards’ plan in place for themselves at home,” Emery said.

Preparedness important at work and home

We encourage everyone to review the following information and resources to better prepare for the coming hurricane season. 

UTHealth Emergency Website: We ask that all employees monitor the university’s emergency web page, as it is updated continuously during hazardous weather.

UTHealth Emergency Management Plan: The UTHealth Emergency Management Plan becomes activated 96 hours before landfall if a hurricane heads toward the Houston area.

UTHealth Emergency Twitter: Sign up to follow the UTHealth Emergency Twitter channel for broadcasts of emergency announcements and up to the minute updates during a storm.

UTHealthALERT: In case of a rapid, imminent threat such as a tornado, the UTHealth will activate UTHealthALERT, our emergency notification system that employs cell phone texting alerts. Instructions for signing up for UTHealthALERT can be found here.

UTHealth Storm Center: Visit the UTHealth Storm Center for safety tips and continuous updates during hazardous weather.

HealthLEADER Hurricane & Flood Before and After Handbook: Read up on what to do before and after a hurricane and flood.

Preparedness at work

All departments and units should have an emergency plan that works in coordination with the institutional plan to address specific localized needs. This should include a “phone tree”—a cascading call list to ensure that everyone in your area is notified in case of a workplace emergency.

Important items to remember for your office, lab or clinic

  1. Assemble a list of phone, cell and pager numbers and addresses to communicate with employees and supervisors.
  2. Place current contact information on paper on office doors and freezers.
  3. Duplicate vital information, documents and samples and save in different locations. Think about how records can be accessed from another location if a building is closed.
  4. Acquire materials needed for preparation now, before the rush. Items may include tarps, plastic covers, duct tape, or batteries. 
  5. If a storm is imminent, protect critical equipment by moving it away from windows and unplugging where appropriate. Covering with plastic and getting the equipment up off the floor can prevent water damage if leaks occur.
  6. Move university vehicles above ground level.
  7. Consider “what if” scenarios.
  8. Review your documentation of vital contents (digital photos).
  9. Review procedures that pertain to your work area for scheduling an orderly shutdown, (moving equipment, covering and unplugging equipment).

For additional information on preparedness at work, please visit the following websites:

Preparedness at home

  1. Make a family preparedness plan that includes a communications plan that is coordinated with your work, school and community communication plans. Practice this plan with your entire family.
  2. Build a disaster supplies kit that includes enough supplies for each family member and pets for at least three days.

Important items often overlooked when preparing for a disaster at your home:

  1. Cash, credit card and banking networks may be inoperable for a short time after a disaster. Keep cash and coins. 
  2. Copies of insurance policies, including home, auto and health should be placed in a watertight bag. These documents should travel with you in the event you evacuate. Leave another copy at home in a zip-lock bag in your freezer—a surprisingly secure place during water or wind damage. It is also a great idea to take pictures or video your house inside and out for insurance use at a later date.
  3. Always consider your basic necessities such as clothing and prescriptions, phone numbers and addresses for family and friends.
  4. Car charger for your cell phone.

For additional information on preparedness at home, please visit the following websites:

Weather service websites: