Emergency Preparation Supplies Sales Tax Holiday Scheduled for April 22-24, 2017

18 04 2017

Important information from Glenn Hegar, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts:

You can purchase certain emergency preparation supplies tax-free during the 2017 Emergency Preparation Supplies Sales Tax Holiday. There is no limit on the number of qualifying items you can purchase, and you do not need to issue an exemption certificate to claim the exemption.

This year’s holiday begins at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, April 22, and ends at midnight on Monday, April 24.

These emergency preparation supplies qualify for tax exemption if purchased for a sales price:

Less than $3000
Portable generators

Less than $300
Emergency ladders
Hurricane shutters

Less than $75
Axes
Batteries, single or multipack (AAA cell, AA cell, C cell, D cell, 6 volt or 9 volt)
Can openers – nonelectric
Carbon monoxide detectors
Coolers and ice chests for food storage – nonelectric
Fire extinguishers
First aid kits
Fuel containers
Ground anchor systems and tie-down kits
Hatchets
Ice products – reusable and artificial
Light sources – portable self-powered (including battery operated)
Examples of items include: candles, flashlights and lanterns
Mobile telephone batteries and mobile telephone chargers
Radios – portable self-powered (including battery operated) – includes two-way and weather band radios
Smoke detectors
Tarps and other plastic sheeting

These supplies do not qualify for tax exemption:

Batteries for automobiles, boats and other motorized vehicles
Camping supplies
Chainsaws
Plywood
Extension ladders
Stepladders
Tents
Repair or replacement parts for emergency preparation supplies
Services performed on, or related to, emergency preparation supplies

Additional Charges Affect Purchase Price

Delivery, shipping, handling and transportation charges are part of the sales price. If the emergency preparation supply being purchased is taxable, the delivery charge is also taxable. Consider these charges when determining whether an emergency preparation supply can be purchased tax free during the holiday.

For example, you purchase a rescue ladder for $299 with a $10 delivery charge, for a total sales price of $309. Because the total sales price of the ladder is more than $300, tax is due on the $309 sales price.

For more information, contact the State Comptroller’s Office at Tax Help, or call 1-800-252-5555.





This Day in Texas Disaster History – September 24th

24 09 2015

Ten years ago, Hurricane Rita crashed ashore in Southeast Texas.  Hitting Texas just three weeks after Hurricane Katrina, many do not remember this storm.  However, it was a big storm which caused immense damage and about 150 deaths.  Here is an article that was published yesterday in the USA Today.  The article was written by Alan Gomez.  As the article notes, many lessons were learned from the disaster.  And the lessons were learned.  The State of Texas and its jurisdictions did indeed learn from Hurricane Rita.  The response to citizens in Texas was much improved three years later when Hurricane Ike hit near Galveston.  Here is the article:

Many who live along the Gulf of Mexico refer to Rita as the “forgotten hurricane.”

Hitting the U.S. just three weeks after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, most Americans paid little attention to Rita, which made landfall Sept. 24, 2005, in a far less populated area along the Texas-Louisiana border. Where Katrina left more than 1,800 dead, Rita killed fewer than 150.

But for emergency managers, Rita was almost more important in terms of the lessons learned following the disaster. In the 10 years since Rita struck as a Category 3 hurricane, Texas emergency management officials have redesigned their evacuation plans, local leaders have started building new shelters and Louisiana legislators have updated their antiquated building codes.

“A major lesson? I would say so,” said Ryan Bourriaque, a lifelong resident of Cameron Parish in southwestern Louisiana who now serves as the parish administrator.

The biggest change came in the way large cities evacuate.

As it approached the coast, Rita’s forecast changed daily. The storm was first expected to strike southern Texas, then the massive Houston metropolitan area before actually making landfall close to the Louisiana border. That meant cities from Brownsville to Corpus Christi to Houston were sending their residents fleeing to points further inland, with 3 million people hitting the road at nearly the same time.

That led to agonizing traffic jams where people waited more than a dozen hours to travel just a few miles. Cars that ran out of gas were stranded by the dozens, several died from heat stroke and a van carrying nursing home evacuees exploded, killing 23 patients.

Madhu Beriwal, founder and president of the disaster management consulting firm IEM, said Texas officials were simply not ready for the size of the evacuation. As the storm approached, they ordered phased evacuations to get people out in manageable groups, and they implemented “contra-flow” traffic on highways, meaning all lanes are used to evacuate people in one direction. The problem, Beriwal said, is the state started those plans far too late, leaving a mess on the roads.

“You have to commend them for trying, but there were some problems with trying to do that in the midst of an evacuation,” she said. “It wasn’t successful because that’s a very complicated thing.”

The state responded by preparing plans for future evacuations and, in 2007, creating the Texas Statewide Mutual Aid System to allow local governments to help each other more easily. Now, all cities have evacuation plans and timelines for when to order them. The state has improved its communication with local officials to coordinate the entire system.

Greg Fountain, the emergency management coordinator for Jefferson County, Texas, said that plan includes contracts with fuel distributors and gas stations to ensure that there’s gas available along evacuation routes. He said those new plans were put to the test when Hurricane Ike tore through the same region in 2008. That time, Fountain said traffic moved through the evacuation routes more smoothly and there was plenty of fuel for evacuees.

“Three years later comes Ike and the plans were fantastic,” Fountain said.

Photo: Paul Sancya, AP

Photo: Paul Sancya, AP

Rita also led to other changes throughout the region. Cameron County, Texas, is the southernmost county in the state, but it was in the storm’s path at one point. Given that experience, Tom Hushen, the county emergency management coordinator, said the county began building new, domed shelters to withstand hurricane-force winds.

The county also has contracts with construction firms that can bring heavy equipment, debris-removal operations, companies that provide emergency food and water and others that provide portable bathrooms.

In Louisiana, Rita helped usher in a new era of building codes. Most of the homes in Cameron County, La., a coastal community with just 6,700 people, had been around for generations when the storm tore through. Bourriaque said many of the residents who lost their homes were upset that the Louisiana legislature implemented new building codes that included requirements to elevate homes built in flood zones.

“The feeling was, ‘We’re trying to survive and you’re telling me I can’t build my house back that’s been in the family for six generations?'” he said. “That’s $275,000 for a house that could be built on the ground for $75,000.”

But Bourriaque said Hurricane Ike showed how valuable those new codes were. During Rita, 50% of the county’s homes were destroyed or so badly damaged that they couldn’t be salvaged.

“The homes that were built post-Rita to the elevation standards survived Ike and were minimally impacted,” he said. “Not even losing siding or shingles.”

Despite all the work to improve responses to hurricanes following Rita, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate said not enough localities have taken heed.

Fugate said FEMA, the National Hurricane Center and the Army Corps of Engineers work together to constantly update risk assessments for every coastal city from Texas to Maine. They run models to show local officials how to organize their evacuations and provide different strategies to conduct them effectively. He said some communities, like those around Norfolk, Va., have worked hard in recent years to update their plans. The rest?

“Some have done more than others,” he said.





April Showers…………….help the State of Texas Recover from Drought

20 04 2015

hereThe last edition of the Texas Emergency Management Online provides a good summary overview of drought conditions in the State.  We know that the last week or so has caused a tremendous amount of rain in our area, along with some severe weather.  Much of the State has also received a good dose of rain this week.  This is a good thing (of course, not the severe weather part); it helps to fill our lakes and aquifers which are in need of more water.  Information from the Texas Emergency Management Online:

For the past few months, drought conditions around Texas have been a mixed bag. East Texas has seen tremendous recovery, while North Central and Central Texas keep slipping back into severe and exceptional drought conditions. Most reservoirs west of I-35 are still at historic lows. Overall, the state’s current reservoirs are at 68.4 percent full, up four percent from last year.

C’mon, El Niño! Currently, the Climate Prediction Center has issued an El Niño advisory due to conditions in the tropical Pacific. Traditionally, El Nino brings increased moisture to Texas—a welcome relief to much of the state. The National Weather Service is predicting that there is a 50-60 percent chance for El Niño conditions to continue in the Northern Hemisphere until summer 2015. The expected presence of El Niño is causing predictions for above normal rainfall over the next three months for most of Western Texas and some of the central region, where drought is predicted to intensify or persist.





Texas House Environmental Regulation Committee meeting today to discuss storage of hazardous chemicals

7 04 2015

House Environmental Regulation meets at 8 a.m. with a set of bills up for consideration on the storage and regulation of hazardous chemicals, including ammonium nitrate, the source of the explosion that devastated West two years ago (E1.026).  Of special interest—HB 239, relating to storage of flammable liquids at retail service stations in unincorporated areas and certain municipalities (Springer);  HB 417, relating to information regarding the storage of certain hazardous chemicals (Pickett);  HB 942, relating to the storage of certain hazardous chemicals, transferring enforcement of certain reporting requirements from the Department of State Health Services to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (Kacal);  HB 2470, relating to liability insurance for ammonium nitrate operations (Rodriguez, Eddie); and HB 3810, relating to an alert system of notification of the release of toxic chemicals by a manufacturing facility (Walle).





Drought Continues in Texas

18 05 2014
Michael Norris, file/AP  Bottom of Pond near Amarillo Texas

Michael Norris, file/AP Bottom of Pond near Amarillo Texas

We have been fortunate in the Houston region when it comes to rainfall; just recently it was noted that Lake Conroe is finally full for the first time in four years.  However, we are still below the “average” for the year.  So, additional rainfall will be welcome, not only across the State, but in our region also.

How bad is the drought in the southern United States?  The National Weather Service (NWS) and its NOAA partners have released the May 2014 Southern Plains Drought Outlook Summary.  Drought conditions now cover 70% of Texas; and also 70% of Oklahoma and 90% of New Mexico.  Over two-thirds of the region’s winter weather crop is in poor to very poor condition.  Oklahoma’s harvest is project to be the worst since the fifties.

And, here is some good news.  The likelihood of an El Nino event bringing potential drought relief is always a possibility for us in the southern United States.  Experimental guidance from NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences pegs the odds of an El Nino occurring at 80%.

Strategies for drought preparedness focus mainly on water conservation.  Even though we don’t have severe drought issues in Fort Bend County, making water conservation practices a part of your daily life is always a good idea.  Here are some good practices designed to preserve water:

  • Never pour water down the drain when there may be another use for it. For example, use it to water your indoor plants or garden.
  • Repair dripping faucets by replacing washers. One drop per second wastes 2,700 gallons of water per year.
  • Check all plumbing for leaks and have any leaks repaired by a plumber.
  • Retrofit all household faucets by installing aerators with flow restrictors.
  • Install a toilet displacement device to cut down on the amount of water needed to flush. Place a one-gallon plastic jug of water into the tank to displace toilet flow (do not use a brick, it may dissolve and loose pieces may cause damage to the internal parts). Be sure installation does not interfere with the operating parts.
  • Position sprinklers so water lands on the lawn and shrubs and not on paved areas.
    Repair sprinklers that spray a fine mist. Most misting issues result from a pressure problem, properly regulating pressure in an irrigation system will prevent misting.
  • Check sprinkler systems and timing devices regularly to be sure they operate properly.
  • Raise the lawn mower blade to at least three inches or to its highest level. A higher cut encourages grass roots to grow deeper, shades the root system, and holds soil moisture.




Hints for Surviving Extreme Heat

26 07 2013

We are facing typical Texas heat this summer. Here are some hints, from FEMA, on how to better cope with the high temperatures we are facing in Fort Bend County and the greater Houston region.  Temperatures are rising across the country and many cities are feeling the heat of 100 degrees or more. With the addition of humidity, some areas will begin to experience extreme heat. During extreme heat, it is important to stay cool.
extreme_heat

Extreme heat causes more deaths than hurricanes, tornados, floods and earthquakes combined. Heat related illnesses occur when the body is not able to compensate and properly cool itself.

The great news is extreme heat is preventable by following a few tips:
• Listen to local weather forecasts and stay aware of upcoming temperatures.
• Weather strip doors and windows to keep cool air in.
• Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sunshine with drapes, shades or awnings.
• Drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty.
• Stay indoors. If you do not have air conditioning, visit a cooling station such as your local library or shopping mall.
• Wear light weight and light colored clothing with sunscreen to reduce exposure to the sun.
• Do not leave children or pets in the car unattended at any time.
• Pace yourself in your outside activities. Reschedule if needed.

For more information on beating the heat visit: http://www.ready.gov/heat





Texas People Recovering In Spite of Devastating Events (PRIDE)

19 07 2013

This website was established by the Texas Department of State Health Services in order to promote the disaster crisis counseling outreach services provided in response to the 2005 hurricanes. Disaster survivors’ stories are included, as well as sample fact sheets and a project newsletter. The site also has a corresponding Spanish language page. Texas PRIDE was reactivated in response to the 2011 wildfires in Bastrop, Texas, and it can be reactivated at any time if a disaster response is needed in the state. This website has a toggle button, at the upper right side of the site, which allows viewers to see the website in Spanish.

Website and More Information http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/mhsa/pride