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Houston - Environmental emergencies

Natural catastrophes

Tornadoes - Also known as "twisters", tornaedos are rotating clouds of air with connections to the ground. They can do a lot of damage when passing through populated areas.

If a tornado is coming up:
Find a small interior room without windows possible located opposite to the apporaching tornado (if you know!), like under the stairs, closets are good places, in restrooms, if it has no windows etc.)
Absolutely  avoid to stand in front of windows, stay away from outside walls, glass, and large rooms (malls, auditoriums).
If you are away from home, go to designated shelters, or if you are in open spaces find a ditch or a canal, any  lower than the ground level area you can find. If you can hide UNDER something or below ground level you will be better protected.
Do not  go to your parked car. If you are in your car, drive away at a right angle to the storm movement. When possible, leave your car and lie in a ditch.

For more in depth information go to:

Hurricanes and Tropical storms - Tropical storms are violent weather conditions with heavy rain and strong wionds. A tropical storm is classified as hurricane after it reaches a speed of more than 75 mph (120 kph). The term means "big wind" in a West Indian language, and depending on its strength and size it can be devastating, as Ike reminded Houstonians on september 2008. Hurricane season spans from August till October.  

Lightning storm

All states have electrical storms, some with an higher incidence than other. On average there are 40 storms a year, or more precisely 40 to 80 lightning strikes per year within the average square mile in the U.S.It is dangerous to be caught in open fields working on heavy equipment or playing golf when the electrical storm strikes, or at sea, or talking on the phone or using electrical appliances.


If caught in the open during a thunder and lightning storm and the hair on your head or neck begins to stand on end, find shelter immediately!

If you are caught outside during a thunderstorm, and you have no chance for a secure shelter do not stand underneath a tall isolated tree or a telephone pole, do not stand on top of a hillside. If you are in a forest, seek shelter under a thick growth of small trees. In open areas, seek a low place, like a ravine or valley. Go into a squatting position so your body gives only a small target. Get off or away from open water, tractors and other metal farm equipment or small metal vehicles like motorcycles, bicycles, golf carts, etc. Stay away from wire fences, clotheslines, metal pipes and rails. If you are in a group in the open, spread out. If you feel your hair stand on end, lightning may be about to strike you. Drop to your knees and bend forward, putting you hands on your knees. Do not lie flat on the ground. If a person was struck by lightning, they receive a severe electrical shock and may be burned. Someone who appears to have been killed by lightning can often be revived by prompt action. Where possible, find shelter in a building or in a fully enclosed metal vehicle, such as a car, with the windows shut.

If indoors during a thunder and lightning storm, avoid water! Stay away from open doors and windows. Hang up the telephone and take off headsets, because lightning may strike electric and phone lines and induce shocks. Turn off and stay away from appliances, computers, television sets, power tools, etc. Stay inside until the storm is over! 

Flash floods - Floods are the most common natural hazards. If floods are announced, stay tuned to radio or televison. Floods can happen really quickly. If you are being asked to leave the area or your house, please follow immediately to avoid danger to your and your family's life.

Fire - Invest in a fire extinguisher, a fire blanket  and several smoke detectors depending on the size of your house and number of floors.
Electrical circuits, sockets and appliances can cause major damages, so do make sure yours are in good working order. 

If you should be unlucky and have a fire at your house  :
Stay low to the ground where the smoke is not so heavy.
NEVER hide in the house during a fire.
Always get out as quickly as possible and once you are out, stay out, do not run back in because you forgot something. 
Water sprinkler systems, heat detection sensors and fire alarms are routinely installed in public buildings and most houses and apartments.
If you go hiking, camping or walking around forests, please remember not to throw away lit cigarettes or anything which can cause a fire to erupt.
Be careful!

Air pollution - 
Air pollution is an issue in Houston together with a high pollen count,  and allergies are the unpleasant side effect of it.
If a member of your family is highly allergic to airborne particles, you may want to discuss with your doctor if your family should in fact move to Houston.

Lead Poisoning 

Tel:  1 888 232 6789

Poison Control Center
Tel:  1 800 764 7661



Rabies - Rabies is endemic although the mortality rate in humans is minimal. An effective vaccine is available and leads to very mild side effects. Anyone who is bitten by a suspect animal, and is not vaccinated, must seek medical attention within 48 hours. Raccoons can carry rabies and they like to colonize buildings and make dens inside of chimneys.
Animal handlers should be called to remove them. 

Virus - Cases of West Nile virus and encephalitis have been reported in the past but are vary isolated cases. Authority keep the population in formed in case of outbreaks

Lyme disease - There has been a plague of ticks which carry Lyme disease. Flu-like symptoms occur to those bitten and they can be left with permanent heart damage and arthritis. 


These websites have a lot of valuable information:
Health and Human Services

Communicable diseases