We are already 9 days into a new Hurricane Season which began June 1st. The reason why I am here is to ask for your feedback and to hear about your experiences during Hurricane Ike or afterwards.
First of all, let me share a bit about my experience although it may be different from most of what you had experienced here. I was more fortunate than others, no doubt. I live in a mandatory evacuation zone in Galveston County, right on the edge of Clear Lake within 2 miles from Gulf Coast. My apartment home is situated on a marina so I knew I could NOT take any chances with a hurricane that HAD been forecasted to become a Cat-3 (at that time). I immediately packed up my bags and took my dog and evacuated to the west side of Fort Worth where my parents lived (where I hail from), which was a 5 hour drive from Clear Lake. Many of my friends had stayed in Houston and rode out the storm. I stayed up watching CNN all night worrying about everyone here in Houston. I even saw live coverage of boats rocking back and forth on Clear Lake on CNN as Hurricane Ike churned towards Galveston as a Cat-2. All the DARS offices closed for two weeks. Schools closed down. I returned a week later and was very grateful to see that my home that had been in the path of the eye was spared. Not even a scratch. Unfortunately, many people’s homes around me had been destroyed. Debris was everywhere and people threw out all their furniture on the side of streets. Boats were tossed here and there. It was very heart breaking because I had never seen anything like that in my entire life.
During this time, people had lost their power and was without electricity for a few weeks. Deaf people had to rely on their battery powered sidekicks or blackberries to communicate with each other. Some deaf people were without food and water and were begging for food and water. FEMA pods were moved frequently. Many Deaf people had trouble accessing 211 Help. Kelly Curtis-Reagan and I took down boxes of food, water, and clothing to San Leon that had been pretty much wiped out (not as badly as Bolivar though). It was an eye-opening experience for us.
Which brings me to why I am posting this blog…. I recently hosted an emergency preparedness workshop for the Deaf and HOH in Texas City with Mike Houston at DeafLink. During the workshop, a few consumers expressed their frustrations and concerns such as being left in the dark, not knowing where to go for food and water, and not having certified interpreters for appointments with FEMA, et cetera. This clearly indicated that we have many issues to work on so that we can be better prepared for emergency disasters in the future and to have a list of resources ready to share with the Deaf Community. This requires better coordination of all agencies and providers serving the Deaf and HOH population in Houston/Galveston region. We fell short this time so hopefully we can prevent that in the future.
What frustrated you the most during this Hurricane as well as afterwards? If your home was badly damaged, how did your experiences go with the insurance companies and FEMA? Did they provide an interpreter? Did you request accomodations such as interpreter? What other issues do we need improvement on? We will address these issues at the Hurricane Preparedness Meeting that will be held at Houston Center for Independent Living later this month. Everyone is welcome to come and join.
Please share your feedback! Thanks in advance!