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Reflections a year after Hurricane Harvey

By Hector L. Rivero, President & CEO, Texas Chemical Council and the Association of Chemical Industry of Texas.

In August of 2017, Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas coast with unprecedented flooding, dozens of deaths and an estimated $200 billion in damage. Every industrial site along the Texas coast was impacted in some way by Hurricane Harvey and the record rainfall in its wake.

TCC is extremely proud of our industry’s outstanding performance during this unprecedented storm. We are most proud of the incredible job by our member companies in supporting their employees and communities where homes, schools, and businesses were devastated by wind and floodwaters. Our companies utilized new communication technologies to reach out to employees during and after the storm, providing medical attention where needed, food and water, supplies, temporary housing, and organized volunteer support to help clean up homes once floodwaters receded.

The outpouring of support by our member company sites and volunteerism by employees were truly touching and an invaluable resource for our communities.

Our industry continuously seeks out learnings from every weather event around the globe and incorporates those lessons into their best practices and emergency planning procedures. There have been new lessons learned from Harvey that have been shared across industry that will help us better prepare, be more resilient, and improve communications and recovery for future storms.

Hurricane season continues through November 30th and forecasters predict more activity this year. Fortunately, our industry has robust preparedness measures and prioritizes the safety of its employees and their families. .

TCC works closely with the Texas State Operations Center (SOC) located at the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) headquarters in Austin, as well as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support our facilities during extreme weather events and to assist with recovery efforts across the state. Locally, member sites coordinate with their LEPC (Local Emergency Planning Committee) to plan and coordinate with emergency responders, public health professionals, and state and local elected officials.

In case of any weather emergency, the Texas Department of State Health Services suggests all Texans – including our employees – create a disaster supply kit, which should be packed in either a portable container or a backpack. Some of the recommended supplies are a three-day supply of food, one gallon of water (per person, per day), medications, a first-aid kit, a flashlight, extra batteries, matches, and copies of your critical information if you need to evacuate. A complete list of recommended items can be found here.

DPS also warns residents to know where to go. If you are ordered to evacuate, know the local hurricane evacuation route(s) to take and have a plan for where you can stay, and to contact the local office of emergency management to get information on making arrangements for anyone who may need special assistance during an evacuation.

If you are not in an area that is advised to evacuate and you decide to stay in your home, plan for adequate supplies in case you lose power and water for several days and you are not able to leave due to flooding or blocked roads. Many communities have text or email alerting systems for emergency notifications. To find out what alerts are available in your area, search the Internet with your town, city, or county name and the word “alerts.”

The National Weather Service website also has plenty of resources for preparation, safety, forecasts and communication planning.

Thank you all for an incredible job during Hurricane Harvey. We are hopeful that we won’t see a major weather event for many years to come, but are confident that our industry is prepared and stands ready at all times.

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