When Seasonal Storms Approach, State Agencies Can Help Vulnerable People Get out of Harm’s Way
It’s a staple news interview we see every hurricane season: cantankerous coastal residents sitting on their porches, glowering as dark clouds approach and vowing to “ride this ‘un out.”
Fortunately, these bad examples have little sway with most hurricane veterans. They know all about the deadly potential of storm surges and 100-mph winds. And when officials say it’s time to get the heck out of Dodge, they have no need for further persuasion.
But some do need a bit of extra assistance and advance planning to evacuate in a timely manner. These folks include, among others, people with disabilities and residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
If you or someone you know would need help evacuating in a storm, now’s the time to sign up for the Texas Transportation Assistance Registry. Just call 2-1-1 Texas, the free statewide information and assistance network run by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, and tell them you want to register.
Once you’re signed up, your name and some basic information will be kept in a secure database shared only with local emergency management personnel. Getting on the registry doesn’t just benefit you. It also lets local emergency planners know how many others in your community may need assistance, and the type of help they require.
When you call, be ready to give your name, address and phone number, a secondary contact’s number and their relationship to you, whether you have any pets or service animals and any special medical needs.
It’s OK to register for someone else as long as you have all the necessary information and the person’s consent to act on their behalf.
Once you’re registered there’s no need to call anyone for verification. You also don’t need to re-register if you previously signed up and your basic information hasn’t changed. If anything does change, though, immediately call 2-1-1 and report it.
Emergency management offices may call you back, but only if they have a question or concern. Don’t worry if you don’t receive any confirmation. Most local authorities lack the staff resources to call every registrant, back but your information is in the database, ready to be accessed if a storm approaches.
For more help creating a preparedness plan for a person with disabilities, see the state’s Texas Prepares website at www.texasprepares.org.
FIVES Saves Lives
For long-term care facilities with vulnerable residents, the state offers another valuable resource to assist in large-scale evacuations: the Facility Information, Vacancy and Evacuation System (FIVES) operated by the Texas Department of Aging and Disabilities Services (DADS).
FIVES is a web-based system that allows facilities to help each other during disasters by recording their number of vacancies and creating reports by provider type, county or city throughout the state. That’s invaluable knowledge for facilities that need to quickly identify temporary shelter for their evacuees.
According to DADS’ John Abernathy, the value of FIVES depends on how many facilities are voluntarily participating. He also stressed the need for current participants to remember to enter daily updates during the five-day periods before and after hurricane landfall.
The FIVES website is located at http://fives.dads.state.tx.us. For more information on what the system does, how current participants can make it more accurate and valuable, and other questions, call Abernathy at 512-438-4343. He also can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.
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