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Don’t Sweat It: A Texas Heat Survival Guide

Posted on Thursday, August 22nd, 2019 at 8:03 am by Williams Hart   

It’s August. You know what that means. Heat waves so blistering and humidity so unmerciful that you feel like you’re in a bowl of Grandma’s soup. 

When asked “what’s the weather like down there?”, homegrown and transplant Texans alike are quick to explain that, in the Lone Star State, you might encounter all four seasons in the same day. In other words: unpredictable.

Texas Climate

The Lone Star State is notorious for its incredibly diverse climates. As the second-largest U.S. state of over 260-thousand square miles, Texas boasts a range of weather patterns based on location–from the arid western desert, to the humid eastern gulf coast, to the snowy mountain ranges of Big Bend Country. 

While it is a running joke among Texans that you might wear a scarf in the morning and a pair of shorts in the afternoon, August is that one time out of the year when we all know what to expect: torturous heat. 

Heat-related illness

Like in any weather climate, extreme conditions can directly affect an individual’s health by compromising the body’s ability to regulate its internal temperature. Loss of internal temperature control in the presence of extreme heat can result in a barrage of illnesses, including heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke–all of which could easily turn fatal.

So, how do we Texans survive this brazen assault of near-fatal temperatures, often soaring well over 100 degrees? And how can we protect others from the stifling heat waves of summer?

Invention of the AC

The solution to the life-threatening possibility of developing a heat-related illness began more than a century ago, with somewhat surprising origins.

Willis Haviland Carrier

Born on November 26th, 1876 in Angola, New York, Willis Haviland Carrier was a Cornell University graduate and engineer, best known for inventing modern air conditioning. 

A Brief Timeline

1902. In response to an air quality problem experienced at the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing & Publishing Company of Brooklyn, Willis Carrier submitted mechanical drawings for what became recognized as the world’s first modern air conditioning system. The system was installed in order to prevent misalignment of ink caused by the expansion and contraction of paper stock in the humid climate of the printing plant.


1915. Carrier Engineering Corporation was launched as an independent company by Willis Carrier, and six other young entrepreneurs, to install air conditioning in facilities producing everything from celluloid film to textiles, paper, flour and pharmaceuticals.

1925. In the midst of the roaring 20s, Carrier partnered with three large fan manufacturers to establish the Aerofin Corporation, which installed lightweight air conditioning systems in high-traffic department stores where temperature control was becoming an issue.  With the onslaught of the Great Depression, and the dissipation of department store consumerism, air conditioning skyrocketed in popularity with the installation of systems in public movie theaters–the first place that citizens of all walks of life could experience comfort cooling in what was the darkest economic era in U.S. history.

1950s. By the middle of the 20th century, air conditioning was a billion-dollar industry. Carrier’s invention was installed around the world in thousands of factories, offices, stores, hospitals, hotels, and, most importantly–homes.  The post-war population explosion of the 1950s came hand-in-hand with the dramatic expansion of the U.S. residential market, where the sale of room air conditioning jumped to more than 1 million units in 1953. Soon after, television advertising would emphasize its benefits of “better appetites, better sleeping, happier home life, cleaner houses, less hay fever.”


The use of climate control quickly grew in popularity among different industries, most commonly grouped by two types of application: comfort and process.

Comfort applications

  • Commercial buildings, such as offices, malls, and restaurants. 
  • Residential buildings, such as single family homes, duplexes, and apartment blocks.
  • Industrial spaces, such as machine shops and auto garages.
  • Cars, aircraft, boats
  • Institutional buildings, such as hospitals and schools.

Process applications:

  • Chemical and biological labs
  • Environmental control of data centers
  • Facilities for breeding lab animals
  • Food cooking and processings spaces
  • Industrial environments
  • Mining
  • Nuclear power facilities
  • Plants and farming
  • Textile manufacturing

In both comfort and process applications, the objective may be to not only control temperature, but also humidity, air quality, and air movement from space to space.

Protecting Yourself

While the advancement of air conditioning has certainly reduced the risk of developing heat-related illnesses, Texans must not overlook the importance of taking further precautions to protect themselves when a climate-controlled environment is not available. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers a wealth of information when it comes to safety during natural disasters and severe weather. 

Stay Cool

  • Wear Appropriate Clothing: Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Stay Cool Indoors: Stay in an air-conditioned place as much as possible. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library—even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.

Keep in mind: Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, they will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off. Use your stove and oven less to maintain a cooler temperature in your home.

  • Schedule Outdoor Activities Carefully: Try to limit your outdoor activity to when it’s coolest, like morning and evening hours. Rest often in shady areas so that your body has a chance to recover.
  • Pace Yourself: Cut down on exercise during the heat. If you’re not accustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, STOP all activities. Get into a cool area or into the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak, or faint.
  • Wear Sunscreen: Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool down and can make you dehydrated. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes prior to going out. Continue to reapply it according to the package directions.

Tip: Look for sunscreens that say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels- these products work best.

  • Avoid Hot and Heavy Meals: They add heat to your body!

Stay Hydrated

  • Drink Plenty of Fluids: Drink more fluids, regardless of how active you are. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Stay away from very sugary or alcoholic drinks—these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.

Warning: If your doctor limits the amount you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot.

  • Replace Salt and Minerals: Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body that need to be replaced. A sports drink can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. If you are on a low-salt diet, have diabetes, high blood pressure, or other chronic conditions, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage or taking salt tablets.

Stay Informed

  • Check for Updates: Check your local news for extreme heat alerts and safety tips and to learn about any cooling shelters in your area.
  • Know the Signs: Learn the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and how to treat them.
  • Use a Buddy System: When working in the heat, monitor the condition of your co-workers and have someone do the same for you. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness. If you are 65 years of age or older, have a friend or relative call to check on you twice a day during a heat wave. If you know someone in this age group, check on them at least twice a day.

Protecting Vulnerable Groups

Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others.

Outdoor Employees

People who work outdoors are more likely to become dehydrated and develop heat-related illnesses when precautions are not taken in the presence of extreme temperatures.

According to the Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA), 16 workers died between January and July 2016 as a result of heat-related illness.

To prevent heat-related illnesses and injuries on the job, an in-depth heat-related illness prevention program should be developed and utilized by employers:

  • Reduce workplace heat stress by implementing engineering and work practice controls, such as use of reflective barriers, limit time in heat, and increasing the number of workers per task.
  • Provide a heat stress training program for all workers and supervisors about the following: recognizing signs of heat-related illness, procedures for responding to possible illness, and the importance of acclimation.
  • Make certain that workers acclimatized to heat by gradually increasing the time they work in hot environments.
  • Provide the means for appropriate hydration of worker.
  • Ensure and encourage workers to take appropriate rest breaks to cool down and hydrate.

If your employer does not take these safety measures in the presence of extreme heat and you are injured on the job, you may be entitled to pursue legal action.


Older adults are more prone to heat stress as they don’t adjust well as younger people to changes in temperature. They’re also more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat, and are more likely to take prescription medications that affect the body’s ability to control its temperature or sweat.

Visit elderly adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Keep them cool and hydrated by ensuring they follow these important tips: 

  • Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. If their home doesn’t have air conditioning, contact your local health department or locate an air-conditioned shelter in your area.
  • Do not rely on a fan as your main cooling source when it’s really hot outside.
  • Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
  • If their doctor limits the amount of fluids they drink, ask them how much they should drink during hot weather.
  • Don’t use the stove or oven to cook.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
  • Do not engage in very strenuous activities and get plenty of rest.

Infants & Children

Infants and young children rely on others to keep them cool and hydrated when it’s hot outside, so it’s important to remember that they require additional supervision during times of extreme heat.

  • Never leave infants, children or pets in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked open. Cars can quickly heat up to dangerous temperatures, even with a window cracked open. 
  • Keep them cool and hydrated. 
  • Dress infants and children in loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Make sure they’re drinking plenty of fluids. Stay away from really cold drinks or drinks with too much sugar.

Low-income Individuals

In addition following the tips outlined above, low-income households should prepare ahead of time for extreme heat this summer, especially if air conditioning is not available in your home.

Chronic Illness

Extreme heat can be dangerous for anyone, but it can be especially dangerous for those with chronic medical conditions as they may be less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature or they may be taking medications that can make the effect of extreme heat worse. 

If someone you know has a chronic medical condition, keep a close eye on those in your care by visiting them at least twice a day, and ask yourself these questions:

  • Are they drinking enough water?
  • Do they have access to air conditioning?
  • Do they know how to keep cool?
  • Do they show any signs of heat stress?


Pets can suffer from heat-related illness too! Domestic pets such as cats and dogs are far less capable of regulating their body temperature in extreme weather. In fact, some breeds cannot withstand temperatures as low as 75 degrees.

  • Provide plenty of fresh water for your pets, and leave the water in a shady area.
  • Never leave your pet in a parked car–temperatures inside the car can rise almost 20 degrees Fahrenheit within the first 10 minutes, even with a window cracked open.

Warning Signs of Heat Illness

It’s important to recognize and respond to symptoms of heat-related illnesses, for the safety of yourself and others. 

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is a condition where the body’s cooling mechanisms are overcome by heat resulting in a high core heat usually above 104 F in adults, and 105 F in children.

What to Look For

  • High body temperature (103°F or higher) 
  • Hot, red, dry, or damp skin 
  • Fast, strong pulse
  • Headache 
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea 
  • Confusion
  • Losing consciousness (passing out)

What to Do

  • Call 911 right away – heat stroke is a medical emergency
  • Move the person to a cooler place
  • Help lower the person’s temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath
  • Do not give the person anything to drink

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a condition whose symptoms may include heavy sweating and a rapid pulse, a result of your body overheating.

What to Look For

  • Heavy sweating 
  • Cold, pale, and clammy skin 
  • Fast, weak pulse 
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps 
  • Tiredness or weakness 
  • Dizziness 
  • Headache 
  • Fainting (passing out)

What to Do

  • Move to a cool place
  • Loosen your clothes
  • Put cool, wet cloths on your body or take a cool bath 
  • Sip water 

Get medical help right away if: 

  • You are throwing up 
  • Your symptoms get worse  
  • Your symptoms last longer than 1 hour

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are muscle spasms that result from loss of large amount of salt and water through exercising in a hot environment.

What to Look For

  • Heavy sweating during intense exercise 
  • Muscle pain or spasms

What to Do

  • Stop physical activity and move to a cool place
  • Drink water or a sports drink
  • Wait for cramps to go away before you do any more physical activity 

Get medical help right away if: 

  • Cramps last longer than 1 hour 
  • You’re on a low-sodium diet 
  • You have heart problems

Everybody, (Don’t) Panic: How to Prepare for a Hurricane the Right Way

Posted on Tuesday, August 6th, 2019 at 2:18 pm by Williams Hart   

Texas: A History of Storms

About 100 storms and tropical disturbances develop in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico each year. Some of these turn into tropical storms, and on average, two each year become hurricanes that make landfall in the U.S.

Residents along the 367 miles of Texas coastline are no stranger to the life-threatening storms that often emerge from the dangerous waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Beginning the 1st of June through the end of November, coastal homeowners are at risk of a barrage of hazards brought on by hurricanes, including high winds, heavy rainfall, flooding, and storm surges. 

While hurricanes and other major storms affect the entire country, Texas has stood witness to some of the deadliest and costliest natural disasters formed in the Gulf of Mexico. Between 1851 and 2016, 289 hurricanes affected the continental U.S. Of these, 63 made landfall in Texas.

Hurricane Facts

Hurricanes are giant, spiraling tropical storms that can strike land at wind speeds of over 160mph and unleash more than 2.4 trillion gallons of rain a day.

In the formative stages of a hurricane, heat is drawn from warm, moist ocean air and released through condensation of water vapor in thunderstorms. It is at that point that a tropical depression is established. If the sustained velocity of its winds exceed 39 mph, it becomes a tropical storm. At this stage it is given a name and is considered a threat. When the winds exceed 74 mph, the system becomes a hurricane.

Hurricanes are, essentially, colossal heat engines that generate energy on a staggering scale. 


Hurricanes are categorized from 1 to 5 by the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale, a rating system based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed.

  • Category 1 – Winds 74 to 95mph (Minor damage)
    • Very dangerous winds will produce some damage. 
  • Category 2 – Winds 96 to 110mph (Extensive damage)
    • Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage.
  • Category 3 – Winds 111 to 129mph (Devastating damage)
    • Devastating damage will occur.
  • Category 4 – Winds 130 to 156mph (Catastrophic damage)
    • Catastrophic damage will occur.
  • Category 5 – Winds 157 mpg or higher (Absolute worst)
    • Catastrophic damage will occur.

Hurricane Watch and Warning Terms

Although not every tropical storm fully develops into a hurricane, it is important to recognize the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning.

A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected within a specified area. Hurricane warnings are issued 36-hours in advance of the expected onset of high-speed winds in order to allow more time for important storm preparation activities. 

A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within a specified area. These are typically issued 48-hours in advance of the expected onset of high-speed winds. This is when you should prepare your home and review your evacuation plan in case a hurricane warning is issued.

Hurricane Safety Tips

Even if you’ve experienced a hurricane in the past, you may not be aware of how to fully prepare for one. Whether you’re a longtime resident or new to the area, it’s important to know what steps to take to ensure your and your family’s safety–from pre-landfall to post-landfall.  

Before a Hurricane

If a hurricane watch or warning is issued in your specific area, complete preparation is essential for minimizing damage to your property and securing the safety of your household. 

  • To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan (see section below).
  • Know your surroundings.
  • Learn the elevation level of your property and whether the land is flood-prone. This will help you know how your property will be affected when storm surge or tidal flooding are forecasted.
  • Identify levees and dams in your area and determine whether they pose a hazard to you.
  • Learn community hurricane evacuation routes (see section below) and how to find higher ground. Determine where you would go and how you would get there if you needed to evacuate.
  • Make plans to secure your property (see section below).
  • Determine how and where to secure your boat.
  • Install a generator for emergencies.
  • If in a high-rise building, be prepared to take shelter on or below the 10th floor.
  • Consider building a safe room.

During a Hurricane

  • If told to evacuate, do so immediately. Do not drive around barricades.
  • If sheltering during high winds, go to a FEMA safe room, ICC 500 storm shelter, or a small, interior, windowless room or hallway on the lowest floor that is not subject to flooding.
  • If trapped in a building by flooding, go to the highest level of the building. Do not climb into a closed attic. You may become trapped by rising flood water.
  • Listen for current emergency information and instructions.
  • Use a generator or other gasoline-powered machinery outdoors ONLY and away from windows.
  • Do not walk, swim, or drive through flood waters. Turn Around. Don’t Drown! Just six inches of fast-moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • Stay off of bridges over fast-moving water.

Winds, Storm Surges & Flooding

Storm surge is water from the ocean that is pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds swirling around a hurricane. Storm surge is historically the leading cause of hurricane-related deaths in the United States. It undermines roads and foundations when it erodes material out from underneath them.

Storm surge is fast and can produce extreme coastal and inland flooding. When hurricanes cause storm surge, over 20 feet of water can be produced and pushed towards the shore and several miles inland destroying property and endangering lives in its path.  

Water weighs about 1,700 pounds per cubic yard, so battering waves from surge can easily demolish buildings and cause massive destruction along the coast.

Just one inch of water can cause $25,000 of damage to your home. 

Flood Insurance Facts

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) floods—including inland flooding, flash floods and flooding from seasonal storms—occur in every region of the United States. In fact, 90 percent of all natural disasters in the U.S. involve some type of flooding. 

Flood Insurance Basics

  • Homeowners and renters insurance does not typically cover flood damage.
  • More than 20 percent of flood claims come from properties outside high-risk flood zones.
  • Flood insurance can pay regardless of whether or not there is a Presidential Disaster Declaration.
  • Disaster assistance comes in two forms: a U.S. Small Business Administration loan, which must be paid back with interest, or a FEMA disaster grant, which is about $5,000 on average per household.  By comparison, the average flood insurance claim is nearly $30,000 and does not have to be repaid.

National Flood Insurance Program

The National Flood Insurance Program was established by Congress in 1968 for two reasons: to share the risk of flood losses through insurance and to reduce flood damages by restricting floodplain development. The program enables property owners in participating communities to purchase insurance protection from the government against losses from flooding.

For more information on how to buy or renew flood insurance, understanding your risk, how to reduce your cost, or how to file a claim, visit

Myths vs. Facts

MYTH: I receive flood insurance through my homeowner’s insurance.
FACT: Homeowner insurance policies do not normally cover flood damage. You can purchase flood insurance through an insurance agent or company.
MYTH: My homeowner’s insurance agent knows whether I need flood insurance.
FACT: Not necessarily. Not all insurance agents are familiar with communities that participate in NFIP or floodplain hazards. Better to check with an agent who is knowledgeable about NFIP and can explain the benefits so your home and property will be covered should a flood occur.
MYTH: Only those who live in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) can buy flood insurance.
FACT: Anyone can buy flood insurance if you live in a participating community, which must enforce floodplain ordinances and building requirements that meet or exceed FEMA guidelines. If your community does not participate in the NFIP, you can make a request for it to do so through your mayor, city council or county commissioner’s office.
MYTH: It doesn’t make sense to pay for flood insurance if you are in a low-risk flood zone.
FACT: People outside of high-risk flood zones file more than 20 percent of all NFIP claims and receive one-third of federal disaster assistance for flooding. Flooding can occur anywhere. In fact, it is the number one natural disaster in the United States.
MYTH: You can’t buy flood insurance right before or during a flood.
FACT: You can purchase flood insurance at any time, however, there is usually a 30-day waiting period after the premium payment before the policy becomes effective.
MYTH: Flood insurance is only available for homeowners.
FACT: Most people who live in NFIP participating communities, including renters, condo owners and businesses, are eligible to purchase flood insurance.

Beware of Predatory Contractors

It happens after every disaster: Scammers swing into action to try to make a quick buck off storm victims when they’re the most vulnerable. 

It’s important to recognize predatory behavior after a natural disaster. Be wary of non-local contractors who practice high pressure sales tactics such as unannounced visits and pushing you to sign a contract before a damage inspection with a formal estimate. If someone does show up at your door uninvited after your home has sustained damage, be prepared to ask for an office number and address. Also, check to see if they belong to your local chamber of commerce. 

For a complete list of tips to help you carefully select a contractor, visit this article by the Better Business Bureau.

Preparedness Checklist

Below you will find a series of checklists that will help you better prepare for an oncoming hurricane. 

Create and Practice a Family Emergency Plan

Be sure to practice your plan on a regular basis so that you know what to do in an emergency. Practicing your plan also allows you to find problems with the plan in a safe environment. Then, be sure to update your plan so it’s as good as it can be if a disaster strikes.

  • Make sure everyone knows important phone numbers and that children know their parents’ full names.
  • Keep a list of contacts by the phone and in your emergency kit. Be sure to have a charger for your mobile phone.
  • Make sure you identify a safe room in your home to ride out a storm.
  • Determine the best escape routes from your home and find two ways out of each room.
  • Learn basic safety skills such as CPR, first aid, and use of the fire extinguishers.
  • Decide on a meeting place outside of your home, and one just outside of your neighborhood, in case you cannot return to your home.
  • Make a plan about what you will do if you need to evacuate with your pets.
  • Keep a copy of your family emergency plan in your supply kit or another safe, waterproof place where you can access it in the event of a disaster.
  • If you live in an evacuation Zip-Zone (see below), plan an evacuation route ahead of time.
  • Know where to go to get information on shelters and services following an emergency. Visit or call 3-1-1 to find the nearest shelter.
  • Keep some cash on hand in a safe place. Remember that ATMs require power, and may not be available after a disaster.

Prepare your Home

  • Install safety equipment such as smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers. Also test them regularly. Residents of the City of Houston can request a free smoke detector (including detectors for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing) by visiting and click “Smoke Alarms”.
  • Cover all of your home’s windows with permanent storm shutters, for best protection, or custom cut plywood. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking. 
  • Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.
  • Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Reinforce your garage doors; if wind enters a garage it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.
  • Bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.
  • Know how and when to turn off water and electricity at the primary connections.
  • Post emergency phone numbers by all home telephones. Teach children how and when to dial 9-1-1 for fire, police, or an ambulance.
  • Keep a list of your possessions. Keep important papers in a safe deposit box or other safe and dry location.
  • Replace stored water every three months and food every six months.
  • Service and/or replace your fire extinguishers according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Build an Emergency Kit

Building a family emergency kit is crucial. During emergencies, you may need to be on your own for a period of time. You may want to consider three types of kits: A Go-Bag, a Shelter-in-Place Kit, and a Pet Disaster Supply Kit.


A Go-Bag is one that you would take with you in case of an evacuation. Go-Bags should be easily portable like a backpack or suitcase on wheels. Store it somewhere you can easily get to it. 

  • Copies of your important papers in a waterproof bag.
  • Extra set of car and house keys.
  • External mobile phone battery pack or solar charger. Some hand-crank flashlights will also include a phone charger.
  • Bottled water and snacks such as energy or granola bars.
  • First-aid supplies, flashlight, and whistle.
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (with extra batteries, if needed).
  • A list of the medications each member of your family needs and at least a 14-day supply of each medication.
  • Toothpaste, toothbrushes, wet cleansing wipes, and other items needed for personal sanitation.
  • Contact and meeting place information for your family and a map of your local area.
  • A stuffed animal or toy for your child and something to help occupy their time, like books or coloring books. If this includes a hand-held video game, make sure you have extra batteries.
  • Rain ponchos.
  • Escape Tool for your car.

Shelter-in-Place Kit

Keep a Shelter-in-Place Kit for when you need to shelter at home for an extended period. 

  • Water (one gallon per person per day, for drinking and sanitation—up to a 7-day supply).
  • Non-perishable food (up to a 7-day supply per person).
  • Battery-powered radio (with extra batteries) or hand-crank radio/NOAA radio.
  • Weather radio with tone alert and extra batteries.
  • Flashlight and extra batteries.
  • First-aid supplies.
  • Whistle to signal for help.
  • Filter mask or cotton t-shirt, to help filter the air.
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags, soap, disinfectant, and plastic ties for persona sanitation.
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities (water and electric).
  • Manual can opener if your kit contains canned food.
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place (see pages 35-36).
  • Plastic tarps for emergency roof repair.
  • Items for unique family needs, such as daily prescription medications, infant formula, or diapers.
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, and plastic utensils.
  • Cash and change. (ATMs may not be available after an emergency, especially if the power goes out.)
  • Paper towels.
  • Fire extinguisher.
  • Matches in a waterproof container.
  • Rain gear, sturdy shoes, long pants, and gloves.
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification, birth certificates, passports, and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container.
  • A stuffed animal or toy for your child and something to help occupy their time, like books or coloring books. If this includes a hand-held video game, make sure you have extra batteries.

Pet Disaster Supply Kit

If a family is going to evacuate, the family’s pet should be evacuated too. Ensure your pet has proper identification and consider having them micro-chipped. This will make it much easier to reunite them with you if you are separated during an emergency. Identify ahead of time a place you can evacuate with your pet. Consider boarding facilities, veterinarians or your designated evacuation location who shelter pets during emergencies. 

  • Pet medications
  • Important documents, including vaccination records
  • Pet-friendly soap
  • First-aid supplies
  • Strong leashes and collar/harness with ID tags
  • Carriers to transport pets safely
  • Current photos of pets (in case pets get lost)
  • Pet food
  • Drinking water (one gallon per pet per day, for up to seven days)
  • Bowls
  • Litter/pan
  • Muzzle
  • Manual can opener
  • Toys

Develop a Support System for People with Disabilities 

In addition to the preparedness steps that have already been mentioned, if you or a loved one have access or functional needs, you should develop a support system made up of individuals who can help during a disaster. 

Make a list of any accommodations, specialized equipment, or other necessities that may be required. This list might include: 

  • Adaptive equipment for dressing, showering, or eating
  • Equipment that runs on electricity
  • Special vehicle or transportation requirements 
  • Prescription and non-prescription medications 

Pre-Register for Assistance at

People who may need extra assistance in a disaster should register with the State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry (STEAR) by visiting or dialing 2-1-1. STEAR may be used by those who require transportation assistance in an evacuation, as well as by individuals who may require other assistance during a disaster. In the event your area is subject to an evacuation order or other disaster, your local Office of Emergency Management may contact you to schedule transportation or other services. For additional information on hurricane preparedness for people with disabilities or those with access and functional needs, visit

Stay Connected

Staying connected in an emergency situation is imperative to the crucial decision-making involved in remaining safe. Many metropolitan areas have emergency notification systems in place that deliver critical information to residents regarding current conditions, expected impacts, and protective actions to help you adjust your disaster plans as situations change.

Wireless emergency alerts

Authorized government agencies can send short text alerts directly to your phone based on your current location. These alerts happen automatically and do not require you to sign up. To manage these alerts, check your phone’s messenger settings. Learn more at

  • AlertHouston – Staying informed through emergency notifications helps make sure you know what to expect in an emergency, and what to do to stay safe. AlertHouston offers emergency alerts through email, text message, a mobile app, and social media. Sign up at
  • CitizensNet – Want to know more about disaster preparedness and receive news and information from city departments that are of interest to you? Sign up for CitizensNet at


  • American Red Cross Shelter App – Contains emergency shelter information. Updated only when shelters are opened.
  • The Ready App – Emergency preparedness information for the Houston region.
  • Houston 3-1-1 App – Report non-emergency situations to Houston 3-1-1 from your phone.

You can find these apps and more at

Get Involved

Communities that plan together, and work together before a disaster, are better prepared to help each other during a disaster. Get involved in your community throughout the year, meet your neighbors, and make connections. 

CERT (Community Emergency Response Team)

CERT classes are available in neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools to train individuals in basic disaster response skills, such as fire suppression, search and rescue operations, and medical care. This awareness-level course helps residents take a more active role in emergency preparedness by providing skills that allow neighbors to come together and assist one another until local agencies can step in. 

For more information on the training program (a series of eight three-hour sessions) and scheduled classes, visit

Neighborhood Ready Houston Program

The Ready Houston program offers a 90-minute training class called “Neighborhood Ready,” which is facilitated by you or a member of your community. The course covers topics such as determining neighborhood readiness, understanding disaster impact, making a plan, and keeping yourself and your neighbors informed.

Meeting Kit

Ready Houston will send you a meeting kit free of charge that includes a facilitator guide providing tips and suggestions to help make the presentation unique to you and your group. The kit also includes a number of items to help you effectively conduct your training session including a DVD, discussion guides, notepads, pens and safety lights. 
To obtain your kit, please visit 

National Night Out

Throughout Texas, the first Tuesday in October is when neighbors come together to introduce themselves to one another, get to know the local law enforcement officers and emergency responders who patrol their area, and help make their communities safer. To learn more about National Night Out in your community, visit, contact your local law enforcement agency, or check your neighborhood’s page on in late September

Evacuation Information

Hurricane evacuations are based on the damage expected from various storms, and may be local or regional. Evacuations are based on several factors, and are designed to get residents out of harm’s way quickly. 


Several regions of the Texas Gulf Coast have been designated as Hurricane Evacuation Zip-Zones. Zip-zones are large-scale evacuation corridors that are implemented when disaster strikes. You can view an interactive map of Houston-area Zip-zones here.

Traffic management plans

In the event of high vehicle traffic during an evacuation, local government officials may decide to implement traffic management plans. 


Contraflow involves reversing the flow of traffic on highways so that all traffic flows out. During an evacuation, look for signs indicating whether or not the contraflow plans are in effect. Most evacuations will not require contraflow, and not all contraflow options may be used.

Additional lanes, called “Evaculanes”, are sometimes used during an evacuation and are marked with a white hurricane symbol on a blue circle.

After the Storm

If you were affected by a hurricane, it’s important to pay close attention to the information the city provides. One of the best ways to stay up-to-date is to visit the city’s Disaster Recovery website,

Returning home

If you evacuated, you should only return home once official instructions are given to do so. After a storm occurs, it’s important to assess the damage your home or business has sustained as quickly as possible. Do not enter areas that are potentially unsafe. This includes damaged buildings, areas with downed power lines or with heavy debris. Do not attempt to walk or swim through floodwaters.


Utilities, such as power lines or natural gas service, may have been damaged during the disaster. If you see downed power lines or suspect a gas leak, leave the area. Once you are in a safe location, call 9-1-1 and your utility company to report the emergency

Generator safety

If you choose to use a generator during or after a disaster, make sure it’s always used outside. Do not use chains or locks to secure a generator or connect a generator directly to your home’s electrical system. Do not store gasoline inside your home or near water filters. Always have a carbon monoxide detector when using a generator.

Managing debris

Following a large-scale emergency, the city may implement a program to collect debris in neighborhoods. 
Safely Handling and Separating Debris
Remember that debris, especially after flooding incidents, can be hazardous to your health or safety.  You should always:

  • Wear gloves and eye protection when removing construction materials such as drywall, wood siding, and large furniture.
  • Wear long-pants and sturdy shoes in debris-riddled areas to prevent injury.
  • Separate debri into five categories: vegetative, construction/demolition, appliances, electronics, and household hazardous waste.

Documenting Damage
Before putting debris out for collection, you should do the following:

  • Contact your insurance company to file a claim
  • Document your property damage(s) by taking photographs
  • Contact 311 to notify the city of your damage(s). This will help the city identify areas that will need debris collection.
  • If a federal disaster declaration has been issued, call FEMA (800-621-3362), or apply online at to a Disaster Assistance Claim.


While most disasters don’t impact fresh water service, your drinking water can occasionally be impacted by a disaster. If fresh water service has or may have been impacted:

  • Stay informed and listen to local officials for information on your local water service.
  • If your water quality is impacted, listen to the directions given on what to do.
  • Some water issues can be addressed by purifying water as described below, or by using the seven-day supply of water you have in your Shelter-in-Place Kit.
  • Certain types of contamination make water unsafe even after purification. In this case, you MUST use your supply of bottled water.
  • Remember that water that is unsafe for drinking should not be used to brush teeth, wash dishes, or for mixing infant formula.

Public Health Threats

Mosquito-borne diseases

If your home or property has flooded in the event of a hurricane, it may be an ideal place for mosquitoes to live and spread dangerous diseases such as West Nile and Zika. As a result, you should drain areas of standing water in and around your home, dress in long sleeves and pants, and use mosquito spray that contains DEET. 

Hazardous materials incidents

Hazardous materials are substances, which because of their chemical, physical, or biological nature, pose a potential risk to life, health, and property if they are released. Houston has witnessed chemical plant fires in the past following the impact of a hurricane. If such an incident occurs, local officials may order a shelter-in-place

Hurricane Resources

For additional information on hurricane facts, preparation, and recovery, please visit the links below.

How to Prepare for a Personal Injury Lawsuit the Right Way

Posted on Wednesday, July 31st, 2019 at 11:01 am by Williams Hart   

So you’ve been injured due to the negligence of another party, and you’ve decided to file a personal injury claim.

Good work! You have taken action and made the first step towards receiving justice. You’re a responsible, hardworking individual and you aren’t backing down from those who must answer for your losses. You’re ready to armor-up! It’s now time to put your trust into the hands of the right attorney to fight for you. 

This guide will walk you through the process of a personal injury lawsuit, including how to choose the right attorney, types of personal injury cases, frequently asked questions, a timeline of the process, and a checklist to help prepare you for the journey ahead.

Types of Personal Injury Cases

Personal injury law, also known as tort law, is designed to protect you, the plaintiff, if you or your property sustains injury or damage because of another individual’s or agency’s actions or failure to act. In a successful personal injury lawsuit, the defendant who caused the injury compensates the plaintiff. 

While automobile accidents make up the vast majority of personal injury lawsuits, the basis of a claim can range anywhere from a simple slip or fall to a multi-victim refinery explosion. The following is a comprehensive list of typical cases that can lead to: loss of income, property damage, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and costly medical treatment.

  • Wrongful Death
  • Truck Accidents
  • Explosion Accidents
  • Burn Injuries
  • Oilfield Accidents
  • Refinery Plant Accidents
  • Pipeline Accidents
  • Jones Act Maritime Lawyer
  • Offshore Platform Rig Accidents
  • Aviation Accidents
  • Bus Accidents
  • Railroad Train Accidents
  • Crane Accident
  • Car Accidents
  • Workplace Accidents

FAQ: Litigation Process

First thing’s first: your case may take awhile to resolve. While small cases can often be resolved quickly, even medium-sized cases can take several years to resolve from the date of your injury to the day you receive compensation for your losses. From start to finish, your attorney will champion your case until the last gavel falls–just remember, he or she will have no control over how long the proceedings will last.

Civil litigation can be a frustrating and confusing process. Pleadings, motions, hearings, interrogatories, discovery, document requests, continuances, adjournments, negotiations, deadlines–the journey from your attorney’s office to the last gavel is an unfamiliar one to most people. Understandably, you have some serious questions.

  • What is the statute of limitations on filing a personal injury claim?

Knowing how a statute of limitations works is imperative, as its rules and procedures are complex and the consequences for failing to follow them can be harsh. You must act quickly. Additionally, court rulings can determine the way the statutes apply–and even make them unenforceable. The number of years you have to file a personal injury claim varies from state to state and can range between one year to six years. You can view a chart of all 50 states with their respective number of years here

  • What happens when a lawsuit is filed?

Once a lawsuit is filed, you become the plaintiff in the case and the person or entity responsible for your injuries becomes the defendant. Attorneys for each side typically begin gathering facts through exchange of documents, interrogatories (written questions), or depositions (questions that are asked in person and answered under oath). This process is called discovery. After discovery, many cases get settled before trial. Only a small percentage of personal injury actions ever go to trial.

  • What’s the difference between negligence, strict liability, and intentional wrongs?

You may be wondering if there is any other basis for personal injury other than negligence. The answer: yes. Strict liability refers to the culpability of designers and manufacturers for injuries resulting in defective products. In this case, the victim does not have to establish negligence–rather, they will need to show that the product was designed or manufactured in a way that made it unreasonably dangerous when used as intended. Intentional wrongs, while rare, refer to cases in which an individual or entity purposefully causes bodily injury to you.

  • What kind of compensation is awarded for personal injury victims?

If a personal injury lawsuit is won by the plaintiff, a judge or jury will award them what the court refers to as damages. In other words: money. The amount awarded can include compensation for expenses such as medical bills, lost wages, future wage losses, physical pain and suffering, or disability that resulted from the injury.

  • Will the responsible party be punished?

This is understandably a concern that most personal injury plaintiffs will want to address. It is important to understand the difference between civil cases and criminal cases. Civil cases, such as personal injury lawsuits, do not involve jail sentences or stiff fines for the defendant. These penalties only apply to criminal cases.

  • What does it mean to settle a case?

This is where you must practice thoughtful consideration towards the outcome of your lawsuit. Settling a case means that you agree to accept money in return for dropping your action against the person who injured you. This will absolve the defendant of any further liability. Your attorney will provide a realistic assessment of whether a lawsuit based on your claim will be successful–after which, the decision to accept a settlement offer is entirely yours.


How to Choose your Personal Injury Attorney the Right Way

Choosing the right attorney to represent your personal injury claim is essential to securing not only the justice you deserve, but financial compensation for your losses. It’s important to put your trust into a legal representative with experience in representing plaintiffs in personal injury cases.

What to Look for in Your Legal Representative

♦  A Proven Record of Winning

When you look for an attorney, the first thing you should see is a history of winning results. An attorney’s work should speak for itself. At the end of the day you want an attorney that knows how to do their job, namely, winning cases.

♦  Financial Compensation

Securing adequate financial compensation requires a competent lawyer. You need to find an attorney who is experienced in setting the cost of damages and liability at a reasonable rate. Many people underestimate the amount of money they are owed while other attorneys might promise more than they can deliver. Look for an attorney who has won similar amounts for other clients and who is educated how much money cases like yours have won.

♦  Up-Front

You need an attorney who will be upfront about their fees and the prospective outcome of the case. Look for an attorney who takes the time to determine the likelihood of your case winning and who can give you some idea of what the legal proceedings will entail. When suing for damages and liability you should expect to pay your attorney part of the money you win, rather than any sort of prior fee. A plaintiff-side personal injury attorney who expects payment before winning should always be a major red flag.

♦  Powerful Negotiator

A good attorney will know when it is best to negotiate and when it is time to go to court. After a verdict, further negotiations on payouts may also be necessary. This is where having a skilled and thorough negotiator is key. Unfortunately, you could be looking at a long appeal process or a reduced payout that is barely worth the time spent filing the lawsuit. You need an attorney who can set reasonable expectations and who knows how to win a case through to the final payout.

♦  Formidable

Look for an attorney who has a reputation in their legal community. It isn’t enough to have a nice attorney, look for someone who is willing to take your case to trial if that is what needs to happen for your best outcome. Be aware of attorneys who do not have the skill or confidence to stop negotiations and go to court. You want to be sure that you hire someone who is experienced in the courtroom and who has won against other formidable lawyers.

♦  Compassionate

What drives a good lawyer to do their work? At the end of the day money isn’t enough to provide the care and honesty you need out of an attorney. It isn’t enough to merely enjoy winning, you need an attorney who has a sense of justice and drive to fight for what’s right. Defending individuals and families who have been harmed through negligence and greed should matter more than making the same money defending the corporations who cause these tragedies. Finding an attorney with a passion to fight for you is a competitive edge that should not be dismissed.

♦  Respect & Fairness

While your attorney should be an expert in their field, there is no excuse for an attorney who doesn’t respect their clients. Keeping you informed and making sure you understand your options is invaluable and the mark of a good attorney. Hire an attorney who will set fair expectations not someone who will promise the moon. Be wary of attorneys who promise something that is too good to be true.

♦  Transparency & Communication

Look for an attorney who is transparent about the legal process. It’s okay to not understand the entire process, that’s why you are hiring a qualified lawyer. You should be able to ask your attorney about the legal process and to get straightforward answers explaining your next steps. Your attorney should keep you informed and aware of the process every step of the way.

♦  Connections & Resources

When deciding on a law firm, look for a firm with the connections to be successful. Deciding between a large or small firm can be challenging. While it might seem like a good idea to go with a smaller firm and receive more one-on-one support, some aspects of trial can benefit from a larger legal team. Major corporations and even some smaller businesses may spend thousands of dollars on “expert” witnesses to attack your case. These experts can be tough to match without the resources to hire your own experts or researchers to prove those other experts wrong. Othertimes, companies may intentionally swamp your lawyer with paperwork to slow the legal process down. Having a firm with a team capable of handling these complicated and labor intensive processes is critical. Look for a firm with the connections to industry leaders and competent staff to tackle whatever your opposition throws at you.

♦  Experience

Having an experienced attorney with an equally experienced legal team encapsulates all of these critical components. An attorney who has a proven record of success in negotiations and the courtroom is of the utmost importance. You want an attorney who has a reputation of success and integrity handling complex cases while also taking the time to answer any questions you might have.

Preparation Checklist

The better prepared you are for your personal injury lawsuit, the more likely you are to receive maximum compensation as quickly as possible. Before the initial meeting with your personal injury lawyer, it’s important to gather all information applicable to your claim in order for him or her to fully investigate your case. 


  • Name and address of ambulance service
  • Name and address of the emergency room where you were initially taken
  • Dates you were admitted to the emergency room and the hospital
  • Names and business addresses of all doctors who have examined you
  • Names and addresses of chiropractors you have consulted
  • Names of all people who were involved in the accident
  • Names and addresses of witnesses to the accident
  • Dates you missed work because of the accident
  • Name and telephone number of each insurance adjuster you have talked to
  • List of people you have talked to about the accident or your injuries


  • Accident report
  • Copies of any written statements
  • Your automobile insurance policy if you were injured in a car accident along with the “declarations” page or “coverage certificate” that sets forth what kinds of coverage you have purchased and what the policy limits are
  • Your homeowner’s or renter’s policy, along with the declarations page or coverage certificate
  • Medical or disability insurance policy or coverage certificate
  • Other policies, including major medical, hospitalization, veterans insurance
  • All correspondence you have received from any insurer about the accident or your injuries
  • Medical bills
  • Receipts for things you have had to buy because of your injury
  • Receipts for things you have had to fix because of the accident

For a printable copy of this checklist, please click here.

What to Expect: A Timeline

The litigation process of a personal injury claim is a lengthy and complex one, and most people do not have experience with such legal proceedings. Understandably, you and your family are anxious to pursue the justice you deserve. While the majority of personal injury claims end in a settlement before it can go to trial, it is important to familiarize yourself with what to expect–from your first meeting with an attorney to the conclusion of a trial. 


  • Meeting with a Personal Injury Attorney


The first step after receiving medical treatment for your injury is to meet with an experienced personal injury attorney for a professional consultation as to whether you have a valid claim. Most personal injury lawyers do not charge a consultation fee, so beware of those who do. It’s important that you bring any supporting documents for your case, including medical records, police reports, photos, and notes you’ve taken. Be prepared to answer many questions, as your attorney will need to get a full understanding of your case.


  • Evaluating and Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney


Selecting the right attorney for your claim can mean the difference between winning and losing your case, so it’s important to consider your legal representative carefully. Be sure to look for the top 10 attorney qualities, listed above, that will prove valuable in your case. Keep in mind during your initial meeting, a good attorney will never make promises about how much money you can expect to receive. Once you have made your decision, you will be asked to sign a client contract that specifies the exact attorney fee. Most personal injury attorneys are paid on a contingency basis, meaning there is no fee unless your case is successful. 


  • Investigating Your Case


To fully understand how you were injured and the extent of your injuries, damages, and costs, your attorney will conduct a full investigation into your case. He or she will contact the insurance company directly and possibly the attorney representing the party responsible for your injuries. Your attorney will keep you up-to-date on any negotiations and developments throughout the litigation process. At this point, you must prioritize your medical treatment and returning to your normal routine.  


  • Settling Your Case Prior To Filing A Lawsuit


Only five-percent of personal injury claims, especially those involving automobile accidents, actually go to trial. The remaining 95% are settled before a lawsuit is filed. While your attorney negotiates with the insurance company representing the party responsible for your injuries, be prepared to receive an offer of settlement. If the offer is made, your attorney will advise on whether or not you should accept it. Ultimately, you, and only you, have the power to decide if the settlement is acceptable. You don’t want to settle too early to “get it over with”, as you might not fully receive the compensation you deserve.


  • Filing Suit In Court 


If an agreement cannot be reached on a settlement, your attorney will file a lawsuit in court, and a judge will set a deadline for each phase of the litigation proceedings. This is where your armor will be put to the test, as the process can take several months to several years depending on the complexity of your case. Remember, your attorney has no control over the length of time it will take to resolve your case.

Pre-Trial Phases

Complaint and Answer 

One of the first documents filed in any personal injury lawsuit, the Complaint is a document outlining your allegations regarding the injuries you’ve sustained, the facts surrounding them, the individual(s) you are suing, the legal basis of your claim, and the amount of damages you believe you are owed. After the Complaint is filed, the defendant has 30 days to “answer” to your allegations. 


The discovery phase involves a collection and exchange of testimony, evidence, documents and information between each party. This includes written documents, such as interrogatories and requests for documents, and oral depositions. Depositions involve the questioning of witnesses, experts, and each party by a lawyer. 


The motion phase involves a submission of a written request or proposal to the court by the defense attorney. There are a variety of motions and they typically ask for a strategic ruling or direction that falls in favor of the defendant.

  • Going to Mediation

Once the court proceedings begin, both parties may be unwilling or unable to resolve a dispute–at which point they may decide to work with a neutral third party. This method of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is called mediation. It is essentially a bargaining process by which a resolution between both parties is reached under a supervised exchange of information. Although sometimes statutes, rules, or court orders may require participation in this process, mediation is usually voluntary.


  • Going to Trial


When your case goes to trial, your attorney will present his or her arguments to the judge or jury, then the individual(s) responsible for your injuries will put on their defense. Once the arguments are presented, the judge or jury will determine if the defendant is legally responsible, and, if so, the amount of damages the defendant must pay you.

A personal injury trial consists of six phases: 

      1. Jury selection
      2. Opening statements
      3. Witness testimony and cross-examination
      4. Closing arguments
      5. Jury instruction
      6. Jury deliberation and verdict


  • Post-trial

While your case may be over at this point, even if the jury ruled in your favor, the defense could appeal the case and ask a higher court to reconsider the verdict. Before you receive compensation, your attorney must first pay any agencies that have legal claim to some of the damages awarded. After that, you will receive a check and the money is yours to keep.


Congratulations! You have reached the end of your journey and your personal injury lawsuit is now over. You’ve navigated a complex litigation process, after many twists and turns, under the guidance of a trustworthy attorney whose expert decision-making skills have delivered you the justice you deserve. You had one opportunity, acted quickly, prepared yourself, remained focused, and battled through it. 

If someone you love was seriously hurt or killed in an accident, you may be unsure of where to turn. The attorneys of Williams Hart have experience helping people through the aftermath of catastrophic accidents, and we can help you too. Contact our law firm at (713) 352-7071 to speak with an experienced lawyer today.

Note: We report on the types of accidents and injuries our law firm has experience handling. Our hearts go out to victims of the accidents described on this blog, and we hope that future accidents, injuries, and deaths can be prevented. These posts are gathered from recent stories in the news. As new developments occur, these stories are often updated. If information contained within this article is false or outdated, please contact us so we can include the new information or make a correction.

Disclaimer: Williams Hart hopes that by showing how often catastrophic accidents occur, we can begin a conversation about how to reduce or prevent them. We sincerely hope that the articles on our blog arm readers with the information needed to avoid being involved in such accidents. Content on this blog should not be construed as legal advice.

Have you or a loved one been injured in an accident?

Contact us today at (713) 352-7071 to get a free, confidential case evaluation.