Hurricanes. Flooding. Explosions. Terrorism. Harris County emergency management experts say these natural and manmade disasters are inevitable. Yet, the majority of greater Houston-area residents reportedly do not know how to protect themselves or their families when disaster strikes.
This week, The Allstate Foundation awarded the Harris County Citizen Corps a $100,000 grant to further its mission of training citizens how to prepare for and respond to an emergency disaster, whether natural or manmade. The grant also involves an expanded partnership with Houston TranStar and the City of Houston Office of Emergency Management to launch a multi-media disaster preparedness public awareness campaign in September, which is National Disaster Preparedness Month.
The Allstate Foundation initiated the partnership, which was announced by The Allstate Corporation President and Chief Operating Officer Thomas Wilson at a press conference held at Houston TranStar. The preparedness program is intended to encourage personal responsibility and volunteer service in Harris County, and will serve as a national best practice in promoting “all-hazards disaster preparedness” through training and public awareness.
“Natural and manmade catastrophes to our homeland are a problem that can’t be ignored,” said Wilson, who addressed the topic with area business leaders at The Houston Executives Forum earlier today. “Houston is the energy capital of America. If a major catastrophe happens here, the whole country may be affected. We are launching this partnership today because Allstate believes the public and private sectors must partner together much more effectively in order to prepare for and recover from catastrophic disasters.”
The Citizens Emergency Response Team (CERT) program, funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and The Allstate Foundation, is an educational program that trains neighborhood volunteers to effectively prepare for and react to disasters. Currently, there are 72 CERT teams in Harris County with 1,044 trained members, and the plan is to increase the volunteer network to 2,000 Houstonians by September 2006. In addition, Allstate’s funding will help underwrite a CERT program for middle school children and expand the existing teen program to reach 20 area high schools.
“We have been trying to raise awareness of the importance and the value of emergency preparedness for a number of years,” said Harris County Judge Robert Eckels. “With the additional funding from The Allstate Foundation, not only will we double our network of adult volunteers, but we will also reach pre-teens and teenagers so they too understand the value of being prepared. We’re extremely pleased to be able to offer the CERT program to an expanded group of people in our community.”
The public awareness campaign, involving television, radio and billboard advertisements, is designed to spur residents into a reality check about the potential risks they are exposed to, showing images of disaster aftermaths and encouraging the community to “think” and “act” before a disaster strikes by visiting http://www.survivedisaster.org or calling 211 for preparedness information.
For more information about emergency preparedness or to schedule CERT training, visit www.survivedisaster.org or call 211.
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