Getting residents to listen, heed advice and act quickly during a storm is what keeps emergency planners up at night.
The biggest mistake people can make is to wait instead of evacuating when it’s ordered, County Judge Mark Henry said.
“The biggest fear is people won’t leave when they’re told to evacuate,” Henry said.
People who are new to the area and have never experienced a hurricane sometimes don’t understand how important it is to evacuate, Henry said. On the other hand, people who have lived through several may consider it “a time to party,” Henry said.
The plan is to call for Galveston County residents to evacuate 24 hours before Harris County emergency managers call for an evacuation of those residents, so there’s a better traffic flow, Henry said.
The county prepares for hurricane season year-round but it officially runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, Henry said. The Office of Emergency Management facility on FM 646 is the county’s headquarters during the storm.
On the county’s end, Henry is the emergency management director and Garrett Foskit, the county’s emergency management coordinator, is the second-in-command. A state emergency management coordinator, appointed by the governor’s office, is also in the office during a storm, Henry said.
The National Weather Service houses its operations there, too, he said.
“It allows us to go see them in real-time instead of waiting for updates,” Henry said. “We can see the concern or lack of concern on their faces.”
Henry encouraged people to make plans for pets and to have enough prescription medicine for at least seven to 10 days, he said.
Residents also should sign up for Blackboard alerts to receive text-message notices about evacuations, Henry said.
Earlier this month, the county announced that six digital billboards along Interstate 45 and state Highway 146 will scroll information about hurricane season and important evacuation information in case of a storm, Henry said.
“We have a plan worked out, but it’s only as good as how well the citizens listen to it,” Henry said.