H1N1 Vaccination Clinics Open This Week

22 02 2010

Fort Bend County Health & Human Services in partnership with Fort Bend ISD is conducting H1N1 Flu vaccination clinics at Dulles and Hightower High Schools. The vaccinations are free and available to everyone. No appointments are required. The schedule is as follows:

Thursday, Feb. 25th:

Hightower High School – 3333 Hurricane Lane – Missouri City  (3-7 p.m.)

Saturday, Feb. 27th:

Dulles High School – 550 Dulles Avenue – Sugar Land  (9 a.m.-1 p.m.)

For more information about H1N1 vaccinations visit:

http://www.fortbendcountyhhs.com/go/site/1257/.

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New Edition of NFPA 1600 is Now Available

20 02 2010

NFPA 1600 provides a Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs.  It establishes a common set of criteria that sets a foundation for disaster management, emergency management, and business continuity programs using a total program approach.  The 2010 edition of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1600 is now available from the NFPA web site.  The download is free; the address is www.nfpa.org  .  NFPA has been involved in planning for, response to, and mitigation of weapons of mass destruction incidents since the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993.





Active Hurricane Season Forecast, Fears for Haiti

14 02 2010

Time to start thinking about the potential of the upcoming hurricane season.  My last blog entry provides you with 2010 hurricane names.  This entry provides you with an article by Juan Castro Olivera, AFP, published on February 11th.  It will give you an idea of the early season hurricane forecasts for the Atlantic; and also provide you with some thoughts about the vulnerability of Haiti.

The 2010 hurricane season beginning in June will be more active than usual and there is an increased chance that devastated Haiti will be hit by a strong hurricane, US weather experts have said.  “The 2010 Atlantic hurricane season will be somewhat more active than the average,” Colorado State University’s (CSU) top hurricane expert William Gray told AFP.  He said there was a 49 percent chance that a tropical storm would track close to Haiti this year.

Gray’s team predicts between 11 and 16 tropical storms will form in the Atlantic this year, up from the average nine to 10.  They expect between six and eight of those to become full-fledged hurricanes, by comparison with the usual five to six that gain the designation each year.  The team forecasts up to five of those storms will become major hurricanes, reaching the top three categories in the Saffir-Simpson scale, producing wind speeds ranging from 111 to 155 miles (96 to 155 kilometers) per hour.

The chance that the Caribbean as a whole will be hit by a major hurricane is 58 percent — above the normal 42 percent probability of the past century, according to their study conducted in December.  Gray said Haiti’s vulnerability to a major hurricane this season was not significantly higher than usual.  “The average is around 10 to 15 percent that Haiti would be hit any one year,” he said, adding that in 2010 the average “is a little bit higher now, but not much.”

On Thursday, Haiti was hit by its first torrential rain since the January 12 earthquake, which killed at least 217,000 people and left more than one million homeless, living in precarious, makeshift camps.  “The normally weak infrastructure in Haiti is now virtually non-existent, and so a hurricane would be devastating,” CSU team researcher Phil Klotzbach told AFP.  “It should also be pointed out that it does not even take a full-fledged hurricane to do a tremendous amount of damage to Haiti,” he added. “Tropical Storm Jeanne in 2004 dropped about 12 inches of rain near Gonaives, and over 2,000 people died.”

“For the 2010 hurricane season, we have 49 percent probability of a tropical storm tracking within 50 miles (80 kilometers) of Haiti,” Klotzbach said.  International relief organizations working in Haiti are already concerned about the onset of the 2010 rainy season on the island, which begins in April.

French Red Cross president Jean-Francois Mattei on Thursday warned of the impending disaster the season could bring, including “torrential rains, flooding and landslides.”  The hurricane season — from June to November — often brings death and grief to the Western hemisphere’s poorest nation, which is practically denuded of its moisture-absorbing tropical forests.

In the 2008 hurricane season, Haiti was pounded by four storms that left more than 800,000 people homeless and devastated its agriculture.  Last year, Haiti, the Caribbean, and the US mainland were spared from major storms during a relatively calm hurricane season, thanks to the storm-dampening effects in the Atlantic of the El Nino climate pattern.  Gray, whose 25 years of studies have made him one of the leading US experts on hurricanes, predicted that “El Nino activity will be mostly dissipated by August when we get into the hurricane season,” favoring greater storm activity.





2010 Hurricane Names

14 02 2010

It is about that time when we (at least those on the Texas Gulf Coast) all need to start thinking about June 1st and the start of the 2010 Hurricane Season.  Below you will find a listing of hurricane names for the Atlantic Ocean for this year.  For every year, therre is a pre-approved list of hurricane names.  The list of names is developed  by the National Hurricane Center.  The list has been formed by the Center since 1953.  When first generated, the lists consisted of only female names; however, since 1979, the lists alternated between male and female names.

There are actually six lists that rotate continuously.  The lists contain hurricane names that begin from A through W; but exclude names that begin with “Q” or “U.”  Names on the list only change when a hurricane is very severe and damaging; when that happens, the name is retired and another name replaces it.  Thus, the 2010 hurricane name list is the same as the list form 2004.  However, the list does have changes; four in fact.  Because of the devastating 2004 hurricane season, the following changes were made:  Colin replaces Charley; Fiona replaces Frances; Igor replaces Ivan; and Julia replaces Jeanne.

  • Alex, Bonnie, Colin, Danielle, Earl, Fiona, Gaston, Hermine
  • Igor, Julia, Karl, Lisa, Matthew, Nicole, Otto, Paula, Richard
  • Shary, Thomas, Virginie, Walter

There are normally less than 21 named tropical storms in any calendar year. In the rare years when more than 21 storms are named the additional storms are given names from the Greek alphabet: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta are used for their names.





Fort Bend School Districts Strive to Improve Emergency Management Capabilities

11 02 2010

My last two blog entries discussed efforts by Lamar Consolidated ISD to improve emergency preparedness efforts in its schools.  Much of LCISD’s recent efforts in emergency preparedness are a result of a grant the District received two years ago from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools; more specifically, the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) grant.

 The REMS grant program provides funds for local education agencies (LEAs or school districts) to improve and strengthen their emergency management plans. The program also enables school districts to develop improved plans that address all four phases of emergency management: Prevention-Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery. School districts also must commit to developing written plans that are coordinated with state Homeland Security plans, support the implementation of the National Incident Management System (NIMS), and are designed to prepare for a possible infectious disease outbreak, such as influenza pandemic.

As a 2007 grantee, LCISD is now finishing up its grant.  And currently, Fort Bend ISD is making application hoping to be a 2010 grantee. Katy ISD was a 2009 grantee, and is moving forward with a variety of activities to improve safety and security plans.  An implementation committee has been meeting for several months.  The committee includes appropriate school officials as well as first responder agencies that provide service to Katy ISD facilities.  Because the district straddles multiple counties, Harris County representatives are part of the committee also.  Throughout 2010, Katy ISD will be revising plans and strengthening emergency management plans.

Duing the last week of  October 2009, a team of individuals representing Katy ISD attended the Multi Hazard Emergency Planning for Schools class at the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) in Emmitsburg, Maryland.  This team of individuals included Alan Spears, Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator, Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management, as well as first responders from the Willowfork Fire Department and the Katy ISD Police Department. 

While at EMI for one week, the Katy ISD team completed ten separate units of instruction with an overall purpose of reviewing a model emergency management plan for schools and comparing it to the Katy ISD plan.  Other school district teams, from other parts of the country, were also in attendance.  The training provided an excellent opportunity for Katy ISD to review and improve their plan, while exchanging ideas on school emergency management and hazards with the other participating districts.

I am heartened to see the enthusiasm of Fort Bend school districts to improve their emergency preparedness plans.  I hope all of the districts in the county make efforts to improve emergency plans— with or without a REMS grant.  To that end, the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management is committed to working closely with all public and private schools to improve emergency preparedness.





Lamar CISD Schools Complete Successful Tornado Drill

11 02 2010

As a follow-up to my last blog entry about Lamar Consolidated ISD’s emergency preparedness efforts, below you will find an article that was printed in the Fort Bend Herald on February 9, 2010.  The article was written by Juan Carlos Reyes.

Although the weather was calm, there was a tornado-like atmosphere in Lamar CISD schools Monday, particularly those along Mustang Drive in Rosenberg.  “Toto, go back to Kansas,” were the code words coming from Lamar CHS Principal Michael Milstead, letting the students know it was a tornado drill.

One of the reasons for the districtwide drill was to determine the response times at each campus, said Christy Willman, Executive Director of Community Relations.  Once the drill was completed, each campus was required to e-mail the completion time to district headquarters.

The LCISD schools that participated are all located on Mustang Drive, including Lamar Consolidated High School, Lamar Junior High, Wessendorff Middle School and Smith Elementary School — faced additional scenarios during the drill.  “The district had a similar drill a week and a half ago”, said Lamar CHS secretary Dora Piñeda.

“We had different signs instructing students where to go last time,” Piñeda said. “It was a little confusing last time, and it took longer to organize the kids.”  This time, the students from all portable buildings, as well as the students inside, were lined up as students calmly made it down the hall, sat down facing the wall and had their arms covered on their head.

Attending the drill was Danny Jan, with the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office. He called the drill a learning experience.  Tianay Geathers, a paraprofessional with Lamar CHS, called the drill a success.  “The kids were great,” Geathers said. “We know that we needed to prepare in case it happens, and I think we are.”





Lamar Consolidated ISD Prepares Its Schools for Natural Disasters

11 02 2010

Last week, I had the pleasure of participating in a functional exercise developed by Lamar Consolidated Independent School District (LCISD).  I was deployed to Wessendorff Middle School in Rosenberg to assist in the exercise, and then offer suggestions for improvements following the event.  The staff at Wessendorf fdid a fantastic job managing the incident, which included a simulated tornado, causing damage to the building and the need for student evacuation.  Within minutes of the simulated tornado causing damage to the school, the Assistant Principal Lorena Callis was unexpectedly put in charge of response (because the exercise controllers, like me, told the Principal that she was incapacitated). 

All members of the Exercise Control Team assigned to Wessendorff, led by Ray Burciaga from the Richmond Fire Department, were impressed by the quick reactions of all the teachers; the diligence of the Crisis Action Team members; and the processes used by Wessendorff officials to protect the students in their facility.  It is possible Ms. Callis put it best when she said “that most of what needed to be done was simply common sense.” 

As in any exercise, some “lessons learned” were identified.  Most of these needed fixes are small ones; though a couple may require the expenditure of funds by the District.  Ms. Callis  and Principal Diana Freudensprung appear committed to making these changes in the next few weeks.  Administration officials who planned the exercise, including Katherine Bowen and Trudy Harris, will be conducting an After Action Review tomorrow.  I know they will be making suggestions to improve the emergency response process at all District schools, and if deemed necessary in their opinion, will recommend budget changes designed to improve response.