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May 5, 2013

Assessing disaster costs in county challenging

Emergency Preparedness

Assessing the damage caused by a severe weather event can be challenging and time consuming.

Hunt County has seen its fair share of storms in the past few years, including having a tornado touch down every year since 2009 and a major flood that caused hundreds of thousand of dollars in 2007.

After the major flooding that occured, Richard Hill, Director of Homeland Security for Hunt County, said since the flooding affected multiple counties, Hunt County was able to receive not only state, but federal assistance to help rebuild the affected areas.

According to Hill, since Wolfe City, Celeste and Neylandville met the requirements for damage caused to public buildings, the cities received a little more than $500,000 in federal assistance to repair infrastructure.

Before 2009, a tornado had not touched down in Hunt County in more than 30 years. Since then, one has touched down each consecutive year, causing more than $1 million in damages to the county.

In the most recentt tornado in 2012, David Alexander, Assistant Director of Homeland Security for Hunt County, said one family in particular survived because they had a disaster plan.

When the tornado came barreling toward the family’s new brick house, the family chose to go to an interior room with their three-month old child and hunker down.

“Everything else around them was destroyed,” Alexander said. “The good Lord was looking out for them.”

With Hurricane Sandy, the Boston Marathon Bombings and the West explosion fresh in peoples minds, exmergency preparedness has been a hot topic of late.

Here in Greenville, the Greenville City Council recently adoptded a $10,000 a year Code Red system, much like Texas A&M University-Commerce’s IRIS Red Alert system that notifies through voice and text if severe weather or an emergency occurs in the area.

Along with signing up for the alert, Hill said citizens should download the National Weather Service app for their phones and purchase weather radio that can be set to go off if severe weather happens in their particular zip code.

Hill listed Hurricane Katrina as an example of why households should have an emergency plan implemented on their own.

“It was such a horrific tragedy that the government couldn’t satisfy the needs of the public quick enough,” he said. “Every household should have a relative or close friend outside the area that can be a point of contact to make sure everyone is accounted for.”

Hill said the most important part of his job is getting the word out on being prepared.

“Emergency management starts with you and your family being prepared at home,” he said, adding that Homeland Security has had a booth at the Hunt County Fair every year for the past four, and he plans to have a booth at the next fair from June 7-15. “Our most important goal is to prepare our county for any disaster.”

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