Harvey Flood Relief in Texas

by IsraAID
Harvey Flood Relief in Texas
Harvey Flood Relief in Texas
Harvey Flood Relief in Texas
Harvey Flood Relief in Texas
Harvey Flood Relief in Texas
Harvey Flood Relief in Texas
Harvey Flood Relief in Texas
Harvey Flood Relief in Texas

In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey - a Category 4 hurricane, and the wettest tropical cyclone on record - hit the United States. Floods inundated hundreds of thousands of homes, displacing more than 30,000 people and prompting more than 17,000 rescues. The total damage from the hurricane is estimated at $125 billion. Throughout Texas, approximately 336,000 people were left without electricity and tens of thousands needed rescue. 103 people died in storm-related incidents: 68 from its direct effects, including flooding, and 35 indirectly in the hurricane's aftermath. 

In coordination with different US-based partners, an initial IsraAID team arrived in Houston on August 29th to respond to household and community needs caused by the storm, as well as needs arising in Houston and the surrounding area’s shelters. Due to the urgency of needs and devastation, assessments were done in conjunction with activities. The team included first responders and a mental health expert. IsraAID worked with different partners including Jewish community organizations, TexasSAR, the Gulf Meadow Church and Team Rubicon to identify the needs and the most vulnerable cases which the team could support.  Our aim was to target shelters that needed mental health experts and identify families that could benefit from our assistance. 

Following 4 months of fieldwork in lower-income communities conducting debris removal, mucking and gutting, mold remediation, and emotional support for affected household members, an assessment led to a participatory initiative aiming to map communities based on their vulnerabilities and assets. The initial program emphasized the gaps in responding to emergencies in their communities, based on the experience during Hurricane Harvey, and looking forward to future potential disasters. 

As a result, two years following the hurricane, the need for a community-based mechanism to deal with emergencies has been identified and a plan was launched. Currently, this coalition of community organizations seeks to provide community-wide preparation, mitigation, response, and recovery efforts for any future events. By involving different organizations and institutions in the community throughout the various stages of an emergency, community assets will be utilized and shared, leading to increased community agency in the context of emergencies, and hopefully, the ability to assist neighboring communities.

Before exiting the community, IsraAID created and presented a report to all relevant community partners in the field. This was based on the work already done in the community, and our recommendations were based on key findings during interviews with the Federation and their associated organizations. Each organization was provided with specific recommendations that matched their individual needs and capabilities, including actions points regarding knowledge sharing, improving coordination, increased collaborative use of services, and bolstering employee support infrastructure to "help the helper."

This collaboration and knowledge sharing process will bolster the internal preparedness capacity toward response for the organizations and different groups within the community. This will help the community to rely on each other in case of emergencies.

Thank you for your continued support throughout IsraAID's work in Houston.

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Hurricane Harvey thrashed Houston in August of 2017, making landfall as a Category 4 hurricane and recorded as the wettest tropical cyclone on record in the United States. The floods inundated hundreds of thousands of homes, displacing more than 30,000 people and requiring the rescue of more than 17,000 individuals. Total damage from the hurricane is estimated at $125 billion, making it among the costliest natural disasters ever to hit the United States. Throughout Texas, approximately 336,000 people were left without electricity. Across the state, 103 people died in storm-related incidents: 68 from its direct impact, including flooding, and 35 from indirectly in the hurricane's aftermath. By August 29, 2017 approximately 13,000 people had been rescued across the state while an estimated 30,000 were displaced. An estimated 25–30 percent of Harris County, roughly 444 square miles of land, was submerged.
Two years after the hurricane, recovery efforts are still underway. IsraAID and its partner organizations are still on the ground supporting the community following Harvey's devastation. IsraAID is helping to create a coalition of organizations prepared to respond to future disasters, a process that was implemented in December.

The aim of the workshops was to facilitate dialogue between the participating partner organizations participating toward creating a clear lessons-learnt process that will inform future emergency preparedness plans. The workshop consisted of four different stages, to complete an asset mapping process and produce a final report with guidelines for the disaster readiness plan based on IsraAID's global expertise in Disaster Risk Reduction efforts.

Over the four stages of the program, 12 organizations sent representatives to participate. More than 30 executives from a variety of community organizations attended, providing key experiences from the hurricane that will inform the basis of the emergency response plan toward the future. IsraAID professionals facilitated each session, providing a framework for feedback and processing, as well as constructive thinking toward best practices in the future.

One participant, Keri Saratovsky, the President of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, explained, "the workshop has initiated a process of creating a stronger and more coordinated community response in the face of future emergency events. The workshop emphasized the resilience we already possess as a community, and IsraAID shed light on how this could be capitalized on and directed towards a community-wide effort of disaster readiness. The existing capacity of the community, along with IsraAID Disaster Risk Reduction expertise and their continued support, will enable us to rally the community in sharing efforts and better prepare for future disasters."
Thank you for your support of this program!!
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Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm, caused immense damage in parts of Texas, including over 100 fatalities, when it made landfall in August 2017. It is among the costliest natural disasters to hit the United States, and recovery efforts continue in many of the highly impacted areas.

Beyond continued work to recover, there is an identified need for better preparation ahead of future, potential storms which continue to threaten the area. In Houston, storms and their subsequent flooding are a constant risk By creating emergency plans, increasing community resilience and building back better, IsraAID and its partners can help to minimize their negative impact.

The IsraAID team is currently supporting a coalition of community-based organizations working on relief efforts following disasters and preparedness for future events. IsraAID is leading the process to strengthen these organizations in the Houston area, to learn from their successes and challenges in previous responses, and create a workplan for future crises. This will facilitate improved response next time the community is need of support. A series of workshops will be held in November, during which participating organizations will develop and implement these workplans, will support from IsraAID’s Disaster Risk Reduction specialists.

In addition to this Coalition Building Program, IsraAID is hosting Psychological First Aid Trainings and Service Provider Self Care for different organizations to take place in November. These trainings will provide local community leaders from different sectors with additional skillsets, enabling them to support their community impacted from Hurricane Harvey, as well as build resilience for future events.

Stay tuned to hear the results of all these initiatives and trainings! Thank you very much for your ongoing support!

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“After hearing about IsraAID’s work in Houston, I knew this fellowship was something I genuinely wanted to do.” Summer 2019 IsraAID Humanitarian Fellow Emma shares her journey from Houston to Dominica.

My name is Emma. I am a rising junior at Rice University in Houston, Texas. This summer, I am volunteering as an IsraAID Humanitarian Fellow in Dominica.

My first week of college began in August of 2017, the same week that Hurricane Harvey hit. As a student from Chicago, I was accustomed to occasional Midwest tornado winds and rain. Following the earthquake in 2010, I traveled to Haiti with my father in order to understand recovery as a means to self-sufficiency. Harvey was, however, my first hands-on experience living through such a disaster. As I spent my first week of school moving back and forth between my dorm room and the residential college’s shelter, I often thought about how this experience would have differed had my university not had such thorough safety and disaster-risk precautions in place. Our Dean of Undergraduate Education and his wife even stayed in my residential college during the storm! I also recognized that Rice University’s campus rests on slightly elevated ground in Houston, resulting in less flooding than the broader Houston community. Despite that slight elevation, I still remember water up to my calves as I waded around campus in search of my friend’s car (which we later learned had flooded). Thankfully, this was only a fraction of the immense damage that most of Houston faced.

Immediately following Harvey, the Rice campus came together and formed a volunteer network of our own students, staff, and faculty in order to be of service to our city. As Harvey’s storm passed, news of damage across Houston became increasingly prevalent. Congregation Beth Yeshurun, the largest Conservative Synagogue in the US, flooded. The NRG Stadium and a furniture warehouse opened their doors as places of shelter. Some Rice University students who had returned home for the weekend were rescued from their houses by boat. Due to the extensive flooding of historical synagogues and Jewish community sites, the Houston Jewish History Archive was launched. This archive is now my place of work at school. My experience during Harvey affirmed my commitment to disaster risk reduction, mental health awareness, and the power of community.

When deciding what I wanted to do this summer, I was looking for an opportunity to understand a crisis, whether directly manmade or as a result of climate change, from both a humanitarian-aid and a holistic perspective. I had heard of IsraAID in the past, as an international NGO that works across the globe responding to both immediate and long-term community needs. After finding out about IsraAID’s work in Houston, I knew this fellowship was something I genuinely wanted to do. I had two primary motivations: the first was that IsraAID’s work post-Harvey showed me that the organization does not only work where it is “trendy,” but where it is needed; second, I would have the opportunity to give back to and learn from an organization that had given so much to my own community.

My journey has now come full circle. As a Fellow in Dominica, I have had numerous conversations with teachers, staff members, and Dominicans who lived through Hurricane Maria in 2017. Our shared experience of a community in crisis allows me to empathize with the individuals here, as well as emphasize the importance of disaster risk reduction. I have been tasked with modifying the disaster risk reduction curricula for students and teachers of children with disabilities. I couldn’t be more grateful to IsraAID and for the opportunity I’ve been given. The work they continue to do in Houston and around the globe not only helps the immediate communities but inspires others to act, to be the change they wish to see in the world.

On 25 August 2017, Hurricane Harvey ravaged southern Texas with winds of over 130 mph (210 kmph) and storm surges up to 13 feet (4m), damaging and destroying thousands of homes. Over 20 inches of rain followed, flooding the homes of 2.3 million individuals. IsraAID deployed a team to implement a two-stage response in Texas, focusing on emergency relief, psychosocial trauma support, and debris removal. Since the initial recovery efforts, IsraAID has updated its response to emphasize disaster risk reduction, partnering with Tulane University, Gulf Meadow Church, and others to identify vulnerable and resilient households within the community.

Emma (far left) visits local Dominican beekeepers.
Emma (far left) visits local Dominican beekeepers.
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Hurricane Harvey whipped through Houston in the summer of 2017, leading to more than 100 fatalities and causing some $125 billion in damages. The destruction caused by Harvey was significant-- one of the most severe storms to hit the United Sates, levying heavy costs comparable most recently with Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The IsraAID team, in partnership with Team Rubicon, reached Houston shortly after the the storm and began working toward clean-up efforts. Our team supported debris removal efforts, provided psychosocial support to victims, and helped the most vulnerable members of the community to clear out their homes and sort through items that could be salvaged and those that needed to be thrown out. Amid this process, the IsraAID team identified a gap in resources that could point to the highest risk households in the Houson area. This information could contribute to increased efficiency in the emergency response and clean up processes, as well as help to create a community-based emergency plan.

Studies show that communities with an emergency preparedness program are better able to bounce back after disaster hits. This fact launched IsraAID into this project-- "Building Community Reslience through Data Mapping" -- which could answer this need should future crises occur.

The Gulf Meadows neighborhood and Houston as a whole, are areas that are prone to environmental disasters without predication of when and where the next disaster will hit. The community, made up of a diverse, lower-income population, presented itself as an ideal location to pilot this program with deeply active community members and leadership, and was enthusiastic about getting involved in creative a preventive plan.

The neighborhood is centred around Gulf Meadow Church, run by Pastors Joe and Becky, recruited members of the church to spearheading this project. These community leaders are owning the data collection process on which the resiliency program will be built.

As the data collection process continues, IsraAID is continuing to cultivate additional relationships toward these goals withmay include running emergency response trainings, developing mechanisms for community-based support including financial, mental heath, and home repairs.

Thank you for supporting this program, strengthening the Houston community's infrastructure in emergency preparedness!

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Organization Information


Location: Tel Aviv, Merkaz - Israel
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @IsraAID
Project Leader:
Navonel Glick
Tel Aviv, Merkaz Israel

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