Organization stands ready to assist in disaster relief
- Written by Kate Jimerson
After disasters such as 2001’s Tropical Storm Allison and hurricanes Katrina and Rita left their mark on North Harris County, the City of Humble Office of Emergency Management contacted organizations that had assisted during such adversity. What was the feasibility of a community organization to help coordinate area volunteer efforts when needed? In early 2006, local groups began assembling to develop a “common methodology to disaster response.” These meetings resulted in a networking group which would provide coordination services, needs assessments, and resource availability following a disaster in North Harris County. The Community Response Task Force (CRTF), a “memberbased nonprofit organization of individuals or groups with the desire or responsibility to assist with disaster relief,” was launched. Organizations participating in CRTF include both government and private entities, churches, hospitals, school districts and citizens, all of which would assist in providing basic needs for displaced people when needed as well as educating residents in disaster preparedness. Learning from past incidents, the group works to assure waste and misdirection of resources will be minimized. The northern Highway 59 corridor lies within a high-risk zone for disaster. The airport, a major interstate, railroad lines and the direct path out of town for storm-surge evacuees demand a great need for emergency preparedness. If a disaster occurs, members of the CRTF volunteer time and their skills. This includes cooking and cleaning, removing debris and providing basic care or shelter. CRTF works with, and assists, local fire and police agencies, Red Cross or emergency management agencies, while coordinating their own CRTF response. As CRTF Vice President Philippe Cras said, it’s a “group of like-minded individuals ready to pitch in.” According to the CRTF website, the group currently has committees working on membership, locating and supporting possible shelter sites, and operating a communications and resource management system. Recent tornado activity led to discussion at the monthly CRTF meeting as to why there is not a tornado alert system in the area. Other updates were given from local hospitals, emergency management offices, school districts and fire departments. The latest nationwide Emergency Alert System (EAS) test was discussed, as were weather radios and the benefit of how these can be programmed to alert for a particular area. The intricacies and value of ham radio (amateur radio) in an emergency were also reviewed. Photo: CERT members train alongside local responders to better serve the community.