By: Nathaniel J. Greene, BBN

On Jan. 30, a pivotal roundtable event, orchestrated by Houston Ethnic Media and FEMA, marked a significant milestone in the journey toward community resilience against winter emergencies. The meeting at Southern News Group brought together nearly 40 journalists from various multilingual media outlets, all united in their mission to convey critical winter preparedness information to their respective audiences, as the memory of Winter Storm Uri remains vivid.

FEMA’s Enhanced Approach to Equitable Assistance

The roundtable was initiated with a compelling address by Traci Brasher, FEMA Deputy Regional Administrator for Region 6. Brasher elaborated on FEMA’s renewed focus on equitable disaster assistance, underscoring the agency’s recent advancements aimed at making aid more reachable and beneficial for marginalized communities.

In her words: “Meeting people where they are is imperative, especially in preparing them for the challenges of winter weather.” This statement from Brasher not only set the tone for the event but also reinforced FEMA’s dedication to making sure assistance reaches those in dire need.

Focused Efforts for the Disabled Community

Logan Perkes, FEMA’s Disability Integration Specialist, offered vital guidance tailored for the disabled, highlighting the criticality of emergency planning and robust support systems. Perkes advised, “Keeping a written list of emergency contacts and a 90-day medication supply is essential for preparedness.”

Proactive Measures for the Homeless Population

Brian Murray of the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management outlined the county’s proactive strategies to aid the homeless during severe weather conditions. He shed light on the collaborative efforts of various agencies in offering shelter and essential supplies. “Our outreach includes not just the visible homeless populations but also those in numerous encampments across the county.”

National Weather Service’s Multilingual Outreach

Dan Reilly from the National Weather Service Houston/Galveston discussed anticipated weather patterns and the importance of breaking language barriers in weather communications. Reilly proposed collaborative efforts with Houston Ethnic Media and Harris County to develop multilingual preparedness materials, citing the website as a key tool in this initiative.

AARP’s Strategy for Protecting Older Adults

Jason Tudor of AARP presented alarming statistics and insights into the vulnerability of older adults in disaster scenarios. He underscored the importance of specialized disaster resilience strategies, including FEMA and American Red Cross partnerships. Tudor stressed, “It’s crucial to educate and connect older adults to available resources, and tailor solutions to their specific needs, such as prioritizing hotel accommodations over shelters during evacuations.”

Ethnic Media: A Vital Communication Lifeline

The roundtable underscored the indispensable role of ethnic media in reaching diverse and vulnerable groups. Sandy Close, Executive Director of Ethnic Media Services, highlighted the essential need for a robust network of ethnic news outlets to ensure that critical information reaches every community in Houston.

Acknowledging the Power of Partnership

Juan Ayala, FEMA’s Deputy Director of Region 6 External Affairs, expressed his optimism about the collaboration, stating, “Engaging with new media outlets like today is a tremendous step forward for FEMA, and we anticipate more fruitful collaborations in the future.”