The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a major contributor to the “Ready or Not – a free family Hurricane Preparedness Event” held in Houston, Texas on May 31, 2014. This marks the ninth year that the Church has taken a key role in planning and implementation of the event.
The annual conference coincides with the beginning of hurricane season, which stretches from June 1 to November 30. Hurricanes are some of the most powerful natural events known to man. They can impact coastal regions of the country from New York to the Mexican border where an estimated 100 million people reside.
Dr. Richard Knabb, National Hurricane Center Director in his third appearance at the annual event touted it as the largest and best organized in the country, drawing as many as 5,000 attendees. “This really is a model of what a metropolitan area can and ought to do to reach out to families while they learn what each person and family can do to get ready for the next hurricane,” said Knabb. The area covers 5500 square miles and 85 cities and towns surrounding the Houston region, according to David Baker, Division Vice President, Distribution Electric Operations for CenterPoint Energy.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, a key figure in the area emergency response team and speaker at the workshop, lauded the Church and its preparedness efforts. “I’ve toured the Church facilities and know about the semis and supplies ready to be disbursed. It’s phenomenal.” Judge Emmett worked closely with the Church in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike in 2008 and was impressed with how members “took care of their own and then reached out to the community.” County Judge Emmett is effectively the CEO of Harris County Texas, the third most populous county in the nation.
Fundamentally following the church’s Emergency Preparedness Plan, the conference highlighted four protective tasks; Make and practice an emergency plan; Build an emergency kit; Stay informed; Know your neighbors. The Church sponsored one of 70 booths from a variety of civic and private vendors. Staffed by Sister Missionaries and Public Affairs personnel, attendees were treated to preparedness and provident living information, examples, and referred to church websites and links.
Cheryl Driggs, Houston Public Affairs Emergency Preparedness Specialist, served on the workshop steering committee. With over 30 years of experience in emergency preparedness, Driggs is committed to the value of preparedness. “These same principles of preparedness can apply to other areas of life,” she added.
Two significant additions were made to the workshop this year. One was the inclusion of planned activities for Boy and Girl Scouts toward earning their Emergency Preparedness Merit Badge. Boy Scouts Conner Dixon and George Kutac encouraged scouts to use the workshop to complete the new Emergency Preparedness Badge. In keeping with the Boy Scout Motto of “Be Prepared” Kutac said, “We like to help others a lot and we’re prepared to do that now in case of an emergency.”
Also, for the first time there were four sessions presented entirely in Spanish, along with ASL, Closed Captioning and Spanish translation for all sessions. According to 2010 census data, Harris County has the second largest county Hispanic population in the USA. Spanish-speaking church membership is also increasing, with 14 Wards, 3 Branches in 2 Spanish language Stakes in the Houston area alone, plus many more Spanish-speaking Wards and Branches in the conference’s geographic region.
Even the workshop “Kid Zone” included information in Spanish as well as English. In the Kid Zone, the “Ready Super Hero” team presented how youth can help prepare for a storm. Booths including a make-it-yourself tool box and interactive learning added to the family-friendly atmosphere of the conference.
In his remarks, Judge Emmett reiterated the importance of each family having a preparedness plan. When asked if he viewed the contributions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as being valuable to family hurricane preparedness in the Houston area, Judge Emmett replied with a resounding, “Yes.”
Article contributor - Linda Talbot