Monday, May 31, 2010

Diocesan Emergency Preparedness Month: Hurricanes

In a little over an hour, Diocesan Preparedness Month will come to a close, and the 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season will begin. If you haven't already seen them, the predictions for this year are ominous, with experts at Colorado State University calling it "a hell of a year." Even more, with the oil that is pouring into the Gulf at a rate of 12,000 to 19,000 barrels each day, even greater disaster could be looming.

Whether you live on the coast and are forced to evacuate, or you live in a town that welcomes and shelters these evacuees, you must be ready for hurricane season. No area of Texas remains untouched by these devastating storms, as was proven in 2005, with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and again in 2008, with Dolly, Ike, and Gustav.

As we've been saying all month long, preparations save lives, maybe even yours. Preparing for hurricanes on the coast means stocking up on essential foods and water, keeping your vehicle gas tank more than a quarter full at all times, cutting boards to protect your windows, and even simply keeping your insurance up to date. For those further inland, it may mean stocking up on food and water so that you have it when local stores sell out, and being ready to welcome strangers into your community.

Based on the predictions of experts, we at TEDRD believe that there will be at least one evacuation affecting the Texas Gulf Coast within the Episcopal Diocese of Texas this year. At least. We can't afford to be unprepared; let's get ready today.

Links to help you prepare:

Texas Extension Disaster Education Network
Texas Department of Emergency Management
Texas Department of Transportation

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Diocesan Preparedness Month: Church Preparedness

Over the last few weeks, TEDRD has sponsored Parish Emergency Planning Workshops in three areas across the Diocese. These events were an opportunity to learn about preparing our churches for disasters and to share suggestions and experiences.

We'd like to offer a big "Thank You!" to the churches that participated in the workshops held in Austin, Houston, and Lufkin:

Christ Church, Nacogdoches
Church of the Redeemer, Houston
Emmanuel, Houston
Epiphany, Burnet
Epiphany, Houston
Good Shepherd, Friendswood
Good Shepherd, Kingwood
Grace, Houston
Holy Comforter, Angleton
Holy Spirit, Waco
St. Andrew's, Pearland
St. Barnabas, Houston
St. Bartholomew's, Hempstead
St. Christopher's, Houston
St. Cyprian's, Lufkin
St. John's, Houston
St. Luke's, Livingston
St. Mark's Richmond
St. Matthew's, Austin
St. Matthew's, Henderson
St. Paul's, Woodville
St. Philip's, Palestine
St. Richard's, Round Rock
St. Thomas, Houston
Trinity, Anahuac
Trinity, Marshall

We are very grateful also for the congregations of St. Michael's, Austin; Emmanuel, Houston; and St. Cyprian's, Lufkin, who allowed us to use their facilities and equipment, and even provided snacks/meals for our participants!

Even if you were unable to attend these workshops, resources are available to assist you in building an emergency plan to fit your congregation.

Texas Episcopal Disaster Relief and Development has published a guide called "Parish Emergency Planning," created specifically for Episcopal churches of the Diocese of Texas, though the information could be easily translated to fit any church of any denomination.

Available for download at, the guide presents emergency planning in a simple, easy-to-use workbook format.

Download the guide and start planning today; you never know when disaster may strike.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

More Houses Finishing Up

May has been a little bit slower with volunteers as we ramp up for a very busy summer. However, we will still be finishing up a few projects in the next couple weeks.

Ms. Sharon's home on Sealy St. will be finished soon. Crew Chief Alison is working hard to put the finishing touches on the home asap. It is already looking like a beautiful place to live. Our volunteers and staff have really done an incredible job

Additionally, Ms. Brenda's home on Ave. T will also be finished soon as well as Ms. Sybil's home on Austin Dr.

Relief Coordinator Maggie has been picking up new projects to get started this summer and it looks like we have plenty of work for many months. Let us know if you'd like to help!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Diocesan Preparedness Month: How To Prepare for Special Needs

By definition, crises are events outside of the normal human experience. Interrupting the established routines of our lives, they often remove the systems we typically rely on to get through our day.

For many of us, the loss is inconvenient, but not insurmountable. For persons with special needs, it could prove devastating and even life-threatening.

In the disaster world, a special need is any limitation on a person's ability to effectively handle and survive a crisis situation.

Special needs include, but are not limited to:
  • Physical restrictions.
  • Medical concerns.
  • Communication abilities.
  • Lack of transportation.
  • Limited financial ability to evacuate or prepare for emergencies.
Special needs may be as simple as needing daily medications (which may not be available for refill in an emergency) or as complex as being bound to a wheelchair while living in a top-floor apartment (how will you evacuate in a fire, or if the electricity is out?).

The Emergency Management Ontario and the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, Canada have developed an excellent resource for persons with special needs to begin planning for and considering their unique situation in emergencies. The guide is available for download in seven (yes, seven!) languages (English, French, Chinese, Italian, Portuguese, Punjabi, and Spanish), and offers excellent tips and instructions for persons with special needs.

Download the guide here:

Additional Note: While full of excellent information, the resources listed in the guide are specific to residents of Ontario. For transportation and other special needs assistance in Texas, dial 2-1-1 from any touch-tone phone. This free phone call can help connect you to local services and organizations. In addition, download information from the Texas Department of Emergency Management at

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Diocesan Preparedness Month: Turn Around, Don't Drown

If you're not a Texas native, you may have only heard stories about the floods that have wreaked havoc on some of our biggest cities over the years. Type "Austin flood" or "Houston flood" into any websearch, and you're bound to find a wealth of news stories, photos, and even tall tales about these watery events.

About a year ago, I got a small taste of Houston's floods. Traveling into the city from Albuquerque, New Mexico, our plane circled the city several times before landing at Bush Intercontinental Airport. We were headed for Hobby Airport, but rain and flood waters prevented us from landing there. Of course, we didn't get off the plane at Bush, and I might be one of the very few people in the world who have traveled from one Houston airport to another via a commercial flight. Leaving the airport that night, I drove through as much as six inches of moving water. I knew very little about floods at the time, and just plowed through, sticking to the shallowest areas, and praying that I'd be safe.

I do not recommend that you do likewise.

A common phrase in flood-prone areas of Texas is "Turn around, don't drown." According to the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes ("FLASH"), the majority of flood deaths occur when people become trapped in cars stalled in flood waters.

Turn around, don't drown means to never drive through standing or moving water.

Water is amazingly deceptive. Even the clearest blue ocean throws our normal depth perception askew. Floods are no different; they hide the dips and ditches of the road, the depths of which may surprise us and put us in danger of stalling, damaging our cars, or drowning.

Low levels of moving water can damage roads; a couple of feet is enough to float your vehicle away, with you in it.

Always find alternate routes around flooded areas, or (better yet) avoid driving in floods at all. If you are in your vehicle and are caught in a flash flood, seek shelter in or on a stable structure immediately. Move to high ground, or to the highest point in a building that you can get to.

Turn around; don't drown. It truly could save your life.

For more information, visit the National Weather Service's "Turn Around Don't Drown" webpage.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Diocesan Preparedness Month: Creating Safe Spaces

In the house I grew up in, there were three trees in our front yard. They were old and not extremely healthy, often dropping large, dead branches in thunderstorms, but my dad refused to cut them down. Our house sat on a busy local highway, and those trees created a barrier between the road and our front door.

The trees served other purposes as well, including being a meeting point for my family in the case of a house fire. My mother, ever cautious about what tragedies could befall her home, taught us at early ages how to break a window properly to ensure a safe escape, and where to meet for a head count.

Every family should identify a similar meeting place in their neighborhood. In addition, two other meeting places can prove helpful in an emergency: 1) Outside the neighborhood, but in town; and 2) Outside of town.

A location in the neighborhood gives your family a place to go in a fire or other emergency isolated to your house or building. It should be close to the home, but far enough away from potential flames and other dangers to keep the members of your family out of harm's way. Locate this safe spot as a family, and practice going there regularly.

For a tornado, flood, or other disaster that compromises your home and your neighborhood, find a second meeting place in or near your town. Emergency shelters can serve as a good point for these types of emergencies, as they are often determined well in advance of a disaster by your local emergency management agency, and will be the place you are directed or taken to in these events. If there is more than one shelter, pick one to go to, know how to identify it to rescuers, and travel to it as a family so that you become familiar with the location and how to get there.

Finally, find an out-of-town friend or family member to call or go to if a disaster forces you out of your home and your community. Teach their phone number to all family numbers (don't just put it in your cell phone and forget it!), and memorize their address as well. Even if you can't get there, teach your family members how to check in with this friend, identifying each family member's location and status, in order to ensure that everyone is accounted for in an large-scale disaster.

Not only will these steps ease your mind in an emergency, but they will also prevent needless endangerment to rescue workers. If we don't know our family is safe, we may request action of these public servants, sending them into dangerous situations to rescue a person they won't find. Building the trust that our family will follow protocol in an emergency allows us to accurately sound the alarm if someone is missing, helping to ensure a swift rescue.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Diocesan Preparedness Month: How to Make an Emergency Kit

(If Jamie Lee Curtis isn't your style, check out a similar video featuring Wyclef Jean.)

The American Red Cross, a renowned member of the disaster preparedness and response community, recommends that you include a minimum of the following items in your disaster supply kit:

  • Water—one gallon per person, per day (3­day supply for evacuation, 2­week supply for home)
  • Food—non­perishable, easy­to­prepare items (3­day supply for evacuation, 2­week supply for home)
  • Flashlight
  • Battery­powered or hand­crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medications (7­day supply) and medical items
  • Multi­purpose tool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Emergency blanket
  • Map(s) of the area

Each family should examine their daily needs and the risks affecting their communities, and pack appropriately. These extra items may include:
  • Medical supplies (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, cane)
  • Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
  • Games and activities for children
  • Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
  • Two­way radios
  • Extra set of car keys and house keys
  • Manual can opener
  • Whistle
  • N95 or surgical masks
  • Matches
  • Rain gear
  • Towels
  • Work gloves
  • Tools/supplies for securing your home
  • Extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Duct tape
  • Scissors
  • Household liquid bleach
  • Entertainment items
  • Blankets or sleeping bags

For more on completing a disaster kit and preparing your home, family, or business for emergencies, visit!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Reprinted From: Episcopal Relief & Development

Torrential rains in the Tennessee area over the weekend have resulted in flooding of Nashville and many other parts of the state. Thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes and hundreds were rescued by boat. The flooding has claimed at least 21 lives in Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky, with Tennessee being the hardest hit.

In the wake of this disaster, Episcopal Relief & Development has reached out to the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee to offer assistance. The Rt. Rev. John C. Bauerschmidt, Bishop of Tennessee, has confirmed the death of two parishoners from St. George’s Church in Nashville and reported that significant damage has been caused at St. George’s, All Saints’ Church in Smyrna and other diocesan institutions. Diocesan offices are currently closed.

Episcopal Relief & Development will work closely with the diocese to provide assistance in the aftermath of the flooding. Please keep all those affected in your prayers. If you would like to make a donation, click here and select the Disaster Response Fund.

For updates on the situation in Tennessee from Bishop Bauerschmidt, please visit the Bishop’s Forum section of the diocese’s website.

For more information on Episcopal Relief & Development's response to this and other disasters, including the January 12th earthquake in Haiti, visit

Diocesan Preparedness Month: Stock Up on the Basics (Lessons from Toto's Home State)

"Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."

So says Dorothy to her little dog, stepping out of her transported house and into the magical land of Oz. And while twisters don't typically move whole houses into alternate realities, there is one thing the Wizard of Oz got right: there are a lot of tornadoes in Kansas.

Spring is a particularly vulnerable time for the prairie state, and the Kansas City Star recently published an article to remind residents about the importance of preparedness.

While it may be the last thing you want to think about, a little preparation before the dark storm clouds roll in can make it much easier to pick up the pieces if disaster strikes.

“People know that emergency preparedness is necessary, but many are not taking action,” said Almitra Buzan, public relations manager for the American Red Cross in Kansas City. “We encourage people to become prepared.”

Tom Morgan, community preparedness and national incident management system coordinator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Kansas City, offers the same advice.

“Emergency preparedness is incredibly important,” he said. “If a disaster hits, you can be financially destroyed, and you also can lose personal items that can’t be replaced. Some people assume that if there is a disaster, the government will help them out, but that’s not always the case. The first response is from local government, and only a small percentage of incidents ever receive federal assistance.”

Monday, May 3, 2010

Diocesan Preparedness Month: Disasters Across the Nation

Right now, oil is pouring into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of more than 200,000 gallons per day. The slick, now visible from space, is 130 miles long and 70 miles across and growing. This unprecedented environmental catastrophe threatens not only the creatures that call the Gulf home, but also the fishing and tourism industries that depend on beautiful, clean waters. Read more from Reuters.

At the same time, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Tennessee are mourning the loss of at least 19 people, killed in a devastating rash of storms that included tornadoes and rising waters. A large portion of Central Tennessee is underwater, including the city of Nashville. Thousands have sought refuge in shelters, and many more are still being rescued.  Read more from CNN.

In addition, the city of New York is reeling from a failed terrorist attempt in Times Square. Three NYPD officers and a street vendor found the device, cleared the area, and called the bomb squad, preventing the devastating consequences of its detonation. Read more from the New York Daily News.

Please keep the people and leaders of these affected communities in your thoughts and prayers.

Diocesan Preparedness Month: Why Prepare?

Here at TEDRD, I'm sometimes referred to as the "preparedness diva." And for good reason. Preparedness isn't just my job; it's my mission.

Of course, I understand that not everyone is as passionate about preparedness as I am. Some don't see the need in preparing for things that "probably won't happen anyway."  Unfortunately, disasters typically come when we least expect them, and they don't strike only the prepared.

So why prepare? Here are a few reasons:

We live in Texas. There might be a handful of low-risk states in the U.S., but Texas is definitely not one of them. In 2008 alone, three hurricanes hit our coast. Two of our major cities (Austin and Houston) are prone to flooding, sometimes to devastating levels. And that's just a start; we haven't even begun to talk about tornadoes, fires, chemicals leaks or explosions, and even the occasional earthquake. Disasters can be regional (like tornadoes) or local (like fires). We may have warning (as with hurricanes) or they may occur suddenly (as with chemical explosions).

Preparedness reduces fear and anxiety. Sure, there's no way to be fully prepared for every event; things will always happen that we don't expect. However, having a plan in place gives us a solid starting point, direction and the peace of mind of knowing we've done everything we can. Plus, in many situations, we may find that our advance preparation is enough. Those food stores set aside will come in handy for sheltering-in-place. And the evacuation kit we stash in a closet by the door will save valuable time, possibly getting us on the road ahead of the crowd. Anybody who has been through an evacuation knows that getting caught in a flood of evacuees is a disaster in itself.

Preparedness can reduce damage or losses to your person or your belongings. Knowing each escape route in your home, for example, can help us to get away from a fire safely. Keeping trees and shrubs pruned prevents dead branches from becoming missiles in a tornado or other windstorm. Preparedness can be as simple as building or buying a home outside a flood zone, or as detailed as storing plastic cut to fit each window in our homes. The steps each of us take will depend on the risks specific to our communities.

For more information, visit "Why Prepare?" a resource of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

You may have other reasons to prepare for emergencies, depending on your family or situation. Check back with us all month long for resources, information, and tips to get you there.

Plus, if you have a story of how being prepared worked for you, we want to hear about it. Email me at!

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