As hurricane season approaches, preparing for evacuation remains vital for all in the Gulf region, but especially for those in need of assistance, such as seniors and those with disabilities.
On the island, the Galveston Housing Authority provides handicap-accessible buses for those in the organization’s public housing: Gulf Breeze Apartments, Holland House Apartments and The Oaks subdivision. The organization would transport those unable to ride by bus, such as a resident who recently underwent surgery, by EMS.
Executive Director Mona Purgason said the buses would evacuate residents to Austin.
Virginia French, a 66-year-old resident at the Holland House Apartments, serves on the organization’s board of commissioners. She said public-housing residents must complete emergency-assistance forms, so the authority knows that they need assistance, she said.
They also receive training on what to bring with them, French said. For her, that means an emergency bag with vaccination records for her 3-year-old Chihuahua-Yorkie mix, Mattie.
“You don’t have to worry about, ‘What am I going to do?’” French said. “You know you have a way off the island.”
In the event of a massive evacuation, such as during Hurricane Ike in 2008, officials would transport residents of the county’s unincorporated areas to two evacuation hubs, Galveston and Texas City, Galveston County Emergency Management Coordinator Garret Foskit said.
In addition to seniors or those with disabilities, anyone with assistance needs would receive help, he said. Those evacuated by the county would travel to Austin from those departure points.
Those living within city limits would receive assistance from their city’s municipal departments through the program, Foskit said. The cities also would transport residents to the two hubs. The county would assist cities if needed.
Foskit also encouraged the public to register with the county’s mass notification system, Blackboard Connect. The service can be accessed through the emergency office’s website. The system sends out alert notifications through phone, text messages, email and other communication forms, he said.
“We want to make sure we have reached out to everybody who needs help getting out of the danger zone,” he said.
Those unsure if they need assistance should go ahead and register with the program, Brent Hahn said. Hahn serves as fire chief and fire marshal for Kemah and Clear Lake Shores and is one of the leaders of the municipalities’ assistance services.
Unlike dialing 911, which provides immediate assistance to a crisis, residents should prepare for hurricane evacuation long before they need help, he said.
“When you see a storm only a few hours out, that’s not the time to call 211,” Hahn said. “Call them now.”