Houston Increased Rescue Boats for Flood Disasters in 2018

How rescue boats look in action -- manned and on high throttle in open water.
Image: Flickr

After Hurricane Harvey, the Houston Fire Department asked the city to invest in rescue boats and other equipment to empower a better response to large flooding disasters. Here’s the status one year later.

The city of Houston is addressing rescue equipment challenges with the addition of rescue boats and vehicles after first responders were overwhelmed with flood rescue calls by Hurricane Harvey one-year ago.

According to the Houston Chronicle, since the 2017 full-scale flooding emergency, the Houston City Council has approved purchase of flood rescue equipment for the Houston Fire Department and other first responders.

A lack of resources and old equipment pressed the city’s firefighters to perform 7,000 rescues and answer more than 15,000 calls during the epic 1,000-year storm. Allocations include $319,012 for the purchase of four high-water rescue vehicles and $150,000 for two evacuation boats, five double-stack trailers and two inflatable boats.

Not Enough Flood Rescue Equipment to Order Firefighters to Duty

The city was also criticized for how the fire department was staffed during the flood emergency.

According to an article following the storm even in USA Today, no official order to duty for Houston’s 4,000 firefighters was made by Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña, and for three days, a single shift of 845 firefighters led rescue missions.

“You can hear on the radio how desperate the situation was getting,” said Houston Fire Capt. Scott Wilkey who was interviewed for the story. One of many first responders, he left his house and drove 35 miles to his Houston fire station.

Luke Manion, a firefighter with the department’s Technical Rescue Division drove a two-and-a-half-ton truck through high water for several days during the floods, according to the story.

There were not enough boats or high-water vehicles for all 4,000 Houston firefighters to use, Peña had said. After Hurricane Harvey, the fire chief called upon the city to double the Houston Fire Department’s annual spending on new engines, ladders and ambulances — and must ramp up purchases of water rescue apparatus and the training.

The city’s allocations, along with donations from the 100 Club, have helped to answer that call. Peña said only a handful of rescue boats are still needed, and he has funding allocated to buy them this year.

In addition to needed equipment, coordination and training were also recommended by the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in its Hurricane Harvey After Action Report.

Learn more about flood rescue equipment and preparing for disaster response:

Can Firefighter Gear Stand Up to Flood Waters?

7 Emergency Planning Myths Busted

About the author

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox is Editor of EfficientGov.com and Senior Editor at Praetorian Digital. She is based in Massachusetts.