Sometimes, when a hurricane or tropical storm is big enough, some cities and areas have to evacuate their homes and find shelter elsewhere. Evacuation is an intimidating task, having to pack everything necessary for the family to survive in such a short amount of time is never easy.
Luckily, Bryan/College Station is far enough inland that storms and hurricanes don’t usually force us to evacuate. However, Bryan/College Station is in a perfect position to accommodate people who do have to evacuate– it’s far enough inland, making it safe, but it’s also not too far, making it accessible.
When hurricane Rita hit in September, 2005, a lot of people from Galveston and Houston ended up in College Station. The roads were almost completely clogged, many stores were wiped clean of merchandise, and a lot of people ended up stranded on the roadside.
Another thing that makes weather coastal weather emergencies relevant to Bryan/College Station is the fact that the sister cities is right on FEMA’s evacuation route. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is in charge of determining the evacuation route, and they have made a few changes that are important to Bryan/College Station residents.
Most recently, FEMA is digitizing their Flood Insurance Rate Maps (or FIRM). A FIRM is a map of floodplains, the flatland areas surrounding lakes and rivers– it’s like an elevation map that focuses on flood prone areas. Most people don’t have these maps laying around their home, and in an emergency situation, it’d be much easier to find a computer. Communication is extremely important in emergency situations, and by digitizing their maps, they can make them accessible to anyone with a connection to the internet.
What is important to Bryan/College Station residents is that on March 17th, FEMA will open the maps to a public forum, meaning that the map is tentative. The public can comment, agree or disagree, and submit an appeal to try to get the evacuation route changed. If the new digitized map has critical faults, like cuts off an area from assistance, or isolates a hospital, you have the ability to tell the government how bad of an idea it is. The residents of Bryan/College Station are the best qualified to determine the best way of getting a massive amount of people through the city without disabling it.
FEMA may not have a perfect track record of success, but emergencies are really difficult to accommodate. They are attempting to iron out the kinks and be more efficient, but public participation would help tremendously. Trying to organize and lead the general public is not easy, even for the government. Efficient communication is paramount, and to be successful, FEMA is turning to the internet.
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