May 28, 2019
Dr. Courtney N. Phillips, HHS Executive Commissioner
AUSTIN – With hurricane season officially kicking off June 1, Texas Health and Human Services is preparing resources for the season and offering useful guidance to keep Texans healthy and safe in the event of a natural disaster.
“When it comes to emergencies, we never stop planning. Texas weather is unpredictable and disasters can happen suddenly, but preparation is key,” said Dr. Courtney N. Phillips, Texas Health and Human Services executive commissioner.
Texas HHS is ready to help in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency by providing public health and medical support; shelters for people with medical needs; disaster food assistance; counseling services; water and ice; regulatory support for health care facilities, long-term care facilities, and child care operations; and special waivers for Medicaid providers and clients as needed.
State health officials encourage Texans to prepare for the hurricane season by following three steps:
- Make a plan. Decide as a family how you will get in contact with each other if separated, where you will go, and what you will do in an emergency. Know and practice evacuation routes.
- Build an emergency supply kit. Gather food, water, and essential supplies for at least three days. Include medications and important documents.
- Get informed. Sign up for warning alerts, download the FEMA app, and learn about how to prepare for different types of hazards.
“We can’t know exactly when or where hurricanes will hit Texas, but we know for certain they will,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services. “If you wait till you see one coming, you missed the opportunity to make the best preparations possible. Don’t wait. Prepare now.”
For sample plans, disaster supply checklists, and more information on preparing for hurricanes and other emergencies, visit texasprepares.org.
While families need to prepare for the hurricane season, so do facilities that serve sick, older, and medically fragile populations. Texas HHS requires state-licensed facilities such as hospitals, assisted living facilities, nursing facilities, intermediate care facilities, dialysis centers, and in-patient hospice units to review their emergency preparedness and response plans for the hurricane season and ensure staff are fully trained on how to execute those plans. State-regulated child care operations are required to do the same.
Facilities must be prepared for a possible disruption of electricity or other critical services due to severe weather. To protect the health and safety of people in their care, licensees must have well-developed emergency plans that address evacuation and shelter-in-place procedures, as well as arrangements for transportation and relocation.
During a large-scale disaster such as Hurricane Harvey, Texas HHS quickly mobilizes staff across the state to assist Texans affected by the storm. HHSC provides disaster food benefits, temporary cash assistance, crisis counseling, and behavioral health services; distributes bottled water and ice to affected communities; and processes Federal Emergency Management Agency grant applications for funds to help repair damaged property. The commission also works with providers and the federal government to pursue special waivers for Medicaid clients and providers as warranted.
DSHS mobilizes hundreds of employees during a disaster to coordinate public health and medical support services, largely through the agency’s State Medical Operations Center in Austin. DSHS operates shelters for people with medical needs, assists health care facilities with evacuations, and executes emergency pharmacy contracts so displaced people continue to get medications. DSHS also provides necessary immunizations for first responders, helps people continue to receive life-saving dialysis treatments, and advises shelters on food service and other sanitation to prevent foodborne illness.