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On informing the public during an emergency

Another thing the state didn’t do well.

As millions of Texans fought to survive brutal winter weather without power and water, Gov. Greg Abbott told residents Wednesday to search for emergency warming shelters on Google and to call 311 for additional assistance.

The only problem: Many people lacked internet access, cellphone service and the ability to watch the governor’s press conferences. When the power went out, the state suddenly lost the ability to provide essential information to people desperately in need of help.

“Telling people to Google it is not OK. It’s the result of non-imaginative or non-planning in general, and it’s very, very unfortunate,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, a senior research scholar for Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness. “And I think there needs to be some accountability for why they hadn’t made the infrastructure more resilient, and also why they hadn’t planned for a situation where the power’s out.”

During natural disasters and other humanitarian crises, the Texas Division of Emergency Management can use the national Emergency Alert System to share important updates, including for weather events, with Texans in specific areas. Impacted residents of the state would immediately receive a cellphone notification through that system with basic information like boil water notices or updates on when power might be restored.

But according to residents and lawmakers around the state, TDEM failed to provide such emergency alerts during this crisis, effectively leaving Texans without the kind of information necessary for living through a disaster. Instead, Abbott and TDEM officials encouraged people to search for resources on social media or Google.

[…]

Although many state officials blamed the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state’s power grid operator, for a lack of warning about prolonged outages, Texans pointed out that the extreme weather conditions should have warranted emergency messages anyway.

“Even if they didn’t know the power outages were coming, just the temperatures alone should have been enough to have massive warnings to people of what is possible,” [Austin resident Suzanne] Wallen said. “The icing of trees and the icing of power lines, all of that is kind of basic dangerous weather information.”

Communicating the right information to people in a timely manner often becomes a life or death situation during disasters like this, Redlener said. Especially when people lose access to clean water, they need to know immediately that they should stop drinking their tap water before boiling it.

And even though TDEM may not have been prepared to send out emergency alerts before people started losing power, the state agency still could have shared information through the national alert system when the situation became dire for people across Texas.

“From so many different perspectives, this is an example of a very poorly planned disaster response, and there’s all kinds of things that could have been better, including the communication issues,” Redlener said.

We received numerous alerts from the city of Houston and Harris County, before and during the disaster. There were automated calls to the landline and to our cells, plus emergency alerts on the cell and emails. Not all of these worked during power and Internet or cellular outages, but a lot of people still have good old-fashioned landlines (ours is now VOIP and so less useful at these times, but we still had those other methods). If power and cable are down, AM/FM radio still works. There were plenty of options available to the state, and there’s no reason why a lot of information couldn’t have been broadcast by all available means well in advance of the freeze. Space City Weather was warning about arctic conditions five days in advance of Monday’s frigid temps. Not everyone will get the message, of course, and not all who do will heed it, but a lot more could have been done. It’s of a piece with the overall lack of planning to keep the electric grid up and running in the first place.

Even worse than all that is stuff like this.

Mayor Sylvester Turner said his office has heard from the White House during this week’s winter freeze, but Gov. Greg Abbott has not reached out at all.

The mayor first raised the lack of communication in an interview Friday morning with MSNBC, telling Stephanie Ruhle he had not heard from the governor’s office as millions went without power and water this week.

“I have not talked to the governor at any time during this crisis,” Turner said. “I have not talked to the governor, but we’re pushing forward.”

At a press conference later Friday morning, Turner said the state has sent National Guard troops to help staff a warming center at the George R. Brown Convention Center. The Texas Department of Transportation also has been “very, very helpful,” the mayor said.

“Between TxDOT and the National Guard, they have provided some assistance,” Turner said.

Asked whether he or his staff has reached out to Abbott, Turner said: “I have been very laser-focused on dealing with the situation right here in the city of Houston. The White House has reached out to me several times, and we’ve had those communications.”

It’s not just Mayor Turner and Houston that have been ignored by Greg Abbott. San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, along with Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, and Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins have said the same thing. I don’t even know what to think about that. I have no idea what Abbott is doing. He was actually pretty visible during Hurricane Harvey, so it’s not like he doesn’t know how to do this sort of thing, and he surely knows that being out in front of an emergency and being visibly in charge and helping others is a boon to one’s image (unlike some other politicians I could name). But by far the bulk of the heavy lifting is being done by local officials and third parties. It’s beyond bizarre.

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15 Comments

  1. Manny says:

    Texas Republicans use the Donald, the buffoon Trump mentality to warn Texans.

    Donald the Russian Asset:

    “SO FAR FROM ZERO
    15 within a couple of days … down close to zero.” —Trump, Feb. 26, 2020

    500,000 deaths later, we must never forget what Republicans stand for.

    They stand for letting Americans die needlessly.

  2. Flypusher says:

    Space City Weather is a national treasure (I say national because they will cover any bad weather that threatens the US). I was much better prepared for what happened because I follow that site. Also I’m a donor.

  3. Bill Daniels says:

    I think people are so caught up with high tech today that they have forgotten about low tech. Thanks to my White privilege, I have a battery operated radio. Heck, I actually have several, due, no doubt, to my Whiteness. Everyone knows that being prepared and self reliant are ugly traits of White people, part of the whole systemic oppression of non whites, who are refused the opportunity to purchase battery operated radios, apparently. Maybe we need a government program similar to the ObamaPhone thing, for battery operated radios?

    When there’s emergency conditions, I always tune in to 740 KTRH, sometimes 950 as well. So, if you want information disseminated in an emergency, the radio is a good low tech way to do it when the power is out.

    What did Ed Emmett drill into Houstonians? Have a kit. Have a plan. Maybe folks should be putting money on layaway for a $ 5 battery operated radio, and $ 5 worth of batteries. Do that now, a dollar a month, and by Christmas, er, um, Winter holiday, everyone in Houston, even the non White people, will have a way to get information they need.

  4. Manny says:

    Bill, how stupid are you? I kept up with the news via my smartphone. I do have a battery-operated radio. I also have a charger for my phone, in fact, it is Makita battery operated, and I have numerous batteries. I also have a vehicle that has an inverter.

    My tablet was always powered.

    What makes you think that you and only you can have a plan. I always maintain at least two weeks of can goods, have plenty of oak and a grill for cooking or boiling water. I have at least 10 Dewalt batteries for the lamp, fan, and light. I have two two five gallons of potting water cans. I even have a portable toilet. I have a battery-operated chain saw just in case hurricanes knock down branches or trees.

    So, Bill, quit patting yourself on the back. You are a wants-to-be alpha male, like most lying, fearful pieces of manures that voted for Trump.

  5. Bill Daniels says:

    Manny,

    Look behind you. You have become what you hate, a ‘Spanish surname’ Hispanic, no different than Ted Cruz. You prepared, and took care of your own family. You acted White, according to your fellow leftists. You no longer have any recognizable affiliation with your La Raza hermanos who are so oppressed that they need the government to constantly step in to help. You have not only a battery operated radio, but a a smart phone, food, batteries and all the rest? Showing your White-Hispanic privilege there, Manny. I bet you even have a cooler, you monster. Where’s that lady to tell you you’re Satan’s spawn for having a cooler? Some people don’t have coolers, Manny. Think about that. You clearly need Jesus, since you took care of yourself and your own family.

  6. Lobo says:

    MENONITAS EN MÉXICO: TRADITIONAL WAY OF LIFE AND THE CHALLENGES OF MODERNITY

    Bill: Even the Menonitas en Chihuahua have started using cell phones, not to mention social media. One of them has a huge following: 3 mil views on YouTube vids. Just google “Marcela Enns”, which will yield a plethora of media providing insights into simple traditional religion-infused life and more recent modernization – including use of electricity and Internet — in Spanish, English (incl. an oral history interview), and Plautdietsch (a Low German dialect spoken by the Mennonites dating back to the times and lands from which they were forced out for religious reasons, including their pacifism). Some of the material has subtitles.

    I recently watched a YouTube interview of a Mennonite in Belize who started using a cell phone for his family business (and other uses), but hid it from his more conservative brother at family gatherings. Another one — a nonlicensed medical “doctor” — got expelled from his community because he chose to use a phone, but then went on to found a new less technology-averse community. The Mennonite communities in Belize (and Canada, of course) speak English, so the video material on them is more accessible for non-Spanish-enabled members of the OTK readership.

    COMUNIDAD MENONITA. ¿COMO VIVEN EN LA ACTUALIDAD?

    To learn about “Los Menonitas” really provides some perspective for way we live and the stuff we take for granted, and the interplay of religion and the traditional agricultural way of life — family and community life — which is very quite different from our notions of rugged individualism and obsession with self-interest.

    ¿Cuál es la diferencia entre AMISH y MENONITAS? – Origen y diferencias

    For a compare & contrast presentation (in Spanish) regarding the Amish in US, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHmgqS1_ktA

    PS: Y hacen un queso bien chingon.

  7. Bill Daniels says:

    Wolf,

    You better send a copy of that honestly very informative post to Joe Biden. He’s absolutely convinced that blacks and Hispanics, especially rural blacks and Hispanics, have no idea how to use the internet, in the same way that leftists generally think blacks and Hispanics aren’t able to obtain driver’s licenses or state ID cards.

    https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/biden-says-some-in-minority-communities-dont-know-how-to-get-online-to-get-in-line-for-covid-19-vaccine/vi-BB1dL4zB?__s=la5lg3blz6czrq2o8ylk

    I know that’s not true, I know people of all races are able to successfully do all these things, but then, even daring to say that all races of people can manage to take care of themselves in the US is spewing hateful racism. Just ask Manny.

    Bottom line, it’s not racist to be paternalistic to non Whites….oh, you poor, misunderstood, downtrodden folks, we know you can’t take care of yourselves, so we here at the government are here to help. That’s Biden’s attitude toward non Whites.

    It IS racist to automatically assume that non Whites are just as capable as Whites of taking care of themselves and their families.

    Seems kinda bizarre to me, but them’s the woke rules, so OK, then.

    For what it’s worth, I have a relative that married into a Mennonite farming family. Super great folks, wonderful, safe community.

  8. Manny says:

    Bill, Cruz is Cuban. Cubans fled Spain to Cuba when the Spanish Civil War broke out, and they fled Cuba when that civil war ended. Cubans are very good at running away.

    You mean handouts like they give the farmers and ranchers?

    You mean handouts like they give the banks? The Airlines? The Automobile industry?

    I guess you are assuming that I have some Mexican in my DNA? Bill, my family, was in this country when your family fled their country of origin.

    Even if they had recently crossed a river, your kind crossed an ocean.

    Bill, I used to do a lot of camping, plus have lived through a lot of hurricanes. I was also a boy scout, do you know the motto.

  9. Manny says:

    That poor whining white boy, Bill, people thinking he is a racist. Why would people think that? Maybe because that racist/bigot has made comments, such as;

    “…give orders for the soldiers to shoot to kill any person entering the kill zone from the Mexican side, period. Women? Children? Old people? Military age males? Waste anyone that crosses from Mexico into the US. Back that up with predator drones . and perhaps an A-10 every 3 or 4 hundred miles, for close air support for larger groups, and you’ve secured the border, with no fences.”

    “I oppose the mandatory masks by government diktat (I’m OK with private businesses mandating it for their own property, however) AND I support abortion, because most of the murdered kids would otherwise have been born to liberal parents. It’s better they were never born and don’t have to suffer the neglect, abuse, and brainwashing leftist parent(s) are known for. They also don’t grow up to vote for leftists, so there’s that, too. Look at the crime and rioting in leftist controlled areas; Without easy access to abortions, the crime rate in those areas would be even higher as the unwanted, un-cared for kids grow up and turn into ‘super predators.’ ”

    “Ogg did her duty as a dutiful Soros backed stooge and let all the rioters at the 60,000 person Joe Biden/DNC downtown go. Mass case dismissals!
    I’m assuming I could get that same level of courtesy if I go rob a liquor store while shouting, ‘Justice for George Kirby!’”

    “It is also obvious that Meghan wears the pants in your family because otherwise you would not have used your dog whistle to mock our president. You used to be a real man who other men looked up to. Now you’re seen as nothing more than a milquetoast.
    Sadly, you went from a hero in 2008, when you served on the front lines in Afghanistan, to a henpecked husband now. You have been turned into a puppet whose strings are being pulled by a domineering bitch.
    And your press is nearly as bad as the daily attacks against the President by the Trump-hating media. The only good press you get is in the US, but only when you bad-mouth President Trump.
    Your fame-hungry wife is achieving her goal. There is even talk about her being a future presidential candidate. Horrors!!
    Harry, I’m sure you are having great sex and getting mind-blowing blow jobs, but when all is said and done, your marriage will eventually head for the rocks. And it will most likely be a bitter and contentious divorce involving the custody of your wonderful son Archie. But when it’s all over, you’ll be rid of the domineering bitch.”

    Why would people think that Bill is a racist, a bigot, a misogynist?

  10. Bill Daniels says:

    Manny,

    I always appreciate when someone quotes my superlative posts, but I can’t take credit for the last one. If I recall correctly, that was someone else, over at Kuff’s nemesis, Big Jolly. Not me. Happy for you to quote any of my actual posts, though, and it warms the cockles of my heart to know you took the trouble to save my pearls of wisdom on your computer!

  11. Manny says:

    You are welcome, Bill because I know that you will always claim that someone is so bad to Bill Daniels.

    That is your quote at the end, Bill.

    https://bigjolly.com/ditch-the-bitch-and-go-back-home/

  12. Bill Daniels says:

    Manny,

    Not to be argumentative, but that last quote was Howie’s post, if I recall correctly, not mine. I substantively agree with his thoughts that you quoted, but since I quit caring about the royal family in 1776, I wouldn’t have actually written that. By the way, the link is dead, it’s a 404 error. I proudly take credit for my own work, but not for the work of others.

  13. Manny says:

    For some reason, the fascist blog, in my opinion, has started removing things. Wonder why?

    Bill, here is your part complete.

    LOL! While I would agree with most that this isn’t the typical BJP subject matter, surprise, surprise, surprise…..I pretty much agree with Howie. While I don’t give a crap about royalty or Hollywood celebrity, I can recognize a guy who is desperately trying to get along by adopting his wife’s politics. Howie’s right….it won’t ever be enough, no woman will respect that weakness, and she’ll eventually leave him when she thinks she can maximize her payout. And he will deserve what he gets for choosing poorly.

    https://bigjolly.com/ditch-the-bitch-and-go-back-home/

    Bill Daniels
    2 days ago
    So F’n what? The folks the statues represent made a significant contribution to Texas. It was in part due to their hard work and success that allows you to come here and bellyache today. You are either just a garden variety racist, or worse, you’re a true believer Marxist, because that’s what all these attempts to destroy history are really all about…..cultural Marxism. Destroy the past. There is no past, there is only the party, only now.
    If you aren’t an actual Marxist, why not read up on it and discover how you’ve become a useful idiot for the left.
    Pro tip: The left doesn’t care about you. Are you a blm proponent? Note how the blm leadership cut off the money now that election season is over. So they got paid, you got nuthin’. Either way, take your racist BS somewhere else.
    6
    2
    https://bigjolly.com/removing-statues-wont-change-our-history/#comments

  14. Manny says:

    I decided to throw in one additional Bill original. Above.

  15. “For some reason, the fascist blog, in my opinion, has started removing things. Wonder why?”

    Manny, I have said this several times here, but I’ll say it again: Comments that contain multiple links are automatically put into the moderation queue by WordPress. When I get around to them, I approve them.

    If you’re referring to some other blog, I can’t speak for them.

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