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Office of Internal Communications

Houston, TX 77204-5017 Fax: 713.743.8196

July 1, 2004

Emergency Changes Post-Allison (also see related emergency story)

The University of Houston invested nearly $6 million in mitigation and developed emergency policies and procedures after Tropical Storm Allison struck the city from June 5 to June 9, 2001.

EMERGENCY POLICY/ PROCEDURE

  • Developed an extensive emergency preparedness procedure, which includes establishing the police station as the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and regularly monitoring storms or hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. The procedure also identifies key administrators and staff members to man the EOC if a major storm or hurricane strikes.

    For details on the emergency management plan, visit http://www.uh.edu/emergency/.

  • Determined which buildings may need to be evacuated first in the case of rising waters — residential facilities, the Law Center, the UC Satellite and the Ezekiel Cullen Building.

FACILITIES

  • Replaced solid steel doors with eight submarine doors at selected tunnel entrances and throughout the selected tunnels. Unlike the former steel doors, the submarine doors are built to withstand the force of water and are designed to close automatically.

  • Installed more than 50 protective barriers, such as ramps and floodgates, at all of the buildings on campus that flooded the most during Allison, including the UC Satellite, UC Underground, Moody Towers, Law Center, Agnes Arnold Hall courtyard, Fine Arts Building and the garage at the Hilton at the University of Houston. For instance, the 16 floodgates are activated after water inundates any area, raising three-foot steel walls to prevent water from seeping into the buildings.

  • Installed 30 new large submersible pumps. Large pumps at such locations as the Law Center, Moody Towers and Philip G. Hoffman Hall (PGH) have automatic sensors so if water rises faster than two inches per hour text messages are automatically sent to several key administrators to alert them.

  • Increased the size and number of emergency generators to more than 20. New large generators were placed in selected buildings including the Computing Center, Science and Research I and Science and Research II. The police station also has a new generator.

  • Moved generators and more than 20 pumps from basements of various buildings. Also, moved computer labs and the John O’Quinn Law Library from various basements to upper floors.

    If materials or equipment couldn’t be moved because of the lack of space or the expense of relocating, the university installed additional protection to prevent water damage. The university also rebuilt lower floors with surfaces such as treated concrete and marine water-resistant sheetrock that are waterproof and easy to clean if flooding occurs.
  • Created a weather station that monitors the amount of rain the campus receives and sends text messages to several key administrators and staff members if rain amounts suggest potential problems. Plant Operations controls the station, which is located in the General Services Building.

POLICE

  • Established a security division in the UH Police Department (UHPD) to provide additional surveillance when buildings are closed.

  • Enhanced the UHPD’s communication network to agencies off campus to provide such information as traffic conditions, road closures and emergency shelters. The police routinely receive weather-related alerts from a variety of sources to provide early-warning (real-time) weather alerts to the campus.

  • Equipped the EOC with telephone and computer data ports for each unit of the Emergency Management Team.

  • Identified flood-prone streets and intersections and planned vehicular evacuation routes. The top four flood-prone streets and intersections are at the underpass at Lockwood and Elgin streets at Interstate 45, 3800 Wheeler Avenue between Scott Street and Cullen Boulevard, the underpass at Texas Spur 5 and Old Spanish Trail Drive and UH Entrance 18 at Elgin Street.

  • Added technological innovations to assist in identifying problem areas that may unexpectedly develop. Closed circuit television cameras have been, or will be, installed to monitor sensitive areas.

  • Identified and made preparations to acquire and use “high-water” vehicles to reach otherwise inaccessible areas of the campus.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

  • Moved some information technology equipment, such as data and video networking, from PGH’s basement to the building’s first floor.

  • Replaced the voice mail system, which was damaged by the storm and was located in PGH’s basement. The new system is now located above ground on PGH’s first floor and at the Computing Center.

MISCELLANEOUS

  • Serviced and tested water pumps and generators monthly during non-hurricane season, and will service and test this equipment weekly during the hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.

  • Purchased five larger storage tanks for gasoline.

  • Purchased emergency supplies, including sheetrock, water, food, generators and emergency lights, and conducts weekly checks of supplies.