HOUSTON — Community leaders in the Houston area want to compile a list of volunteers with boats to ease coordination of rescue efforts if another storm like Hurricane Harvey batters Texas.
The effort, supported by Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, would include a database of volunteer resources in Harris County, including residents who own boats, vehicles that can travel in high water, and other rescue equipment, the Houston Chronicle reported Friday.
“We have to get all that coordinated,” Emmett said.
Harvey hit Texas on Aug. 25 with torrential rain that swamped parts of Southeast Texas, including Houston. Two days later, Emmett made a public plea for people with boats and high-water vehicles to assist in rescue and relief efforts.
The rising water eventually flooded more than 100,000 homes and killed dozens of people.
The sheriff’s department operates five boats and three high-water rescue vehicles, but they were insufficient, said Jason Spencer, spokesman for Gonzalez.
“The fleet could not have been big enough to accommodate the need during Harvey, that’s why volunteers were so critical,” Spencer said.
On Nov. 7, voters passed a city bond measure giving the department $10.8 million annually, for five years, to renew its fleet.
Rescue efforts during Harvey were sometimes hamstrung by the lack of a volunteer database that could have pointed emergency managers to volunteers with the most suitable equipment or local knowledge.
For instance, volunteers with flat-bottomed boats showed up to help residents of Kingwood whose homes were flooded, but more powerful boats with motors were needed to handle the currents. In another case, volunteers from the Cajun Navy — a similar volunteer disaster response team based in Louisiana — struggled to find the addresses of homes whose residents needed rescue.
Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com