With 6 weeks left in hurricane season, facilities crews stand ready

From the moment a severe storm is predicted to make landfall along the Texas Gulf Coast, Facilities, Maintenance, and Operations staff are among the first to spring into action.

Crews place sandbags around flood-prone campuses. Generators are checked and filled with fuel. Pump systems are inspected to make sure they are operational.

“As long as we don’t have a power outage in the area, the pumps should carry all the water that could cause more damage down the road,” said North Maintenance Plumbing Team Lead Kenneth Wesley, who oversees the dispatch of plumbers to campuses when faced with a severe weather threat.

The possibility of inclement weather is never taken lightly. When Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast in 2017, HISD sustained considerable damage, with nearly all schools needing some repair. Four schools were so damaged, they had to be rebuilt.

With first-hand experience in what hurricanes and tropical storms can do, the department makes it a point to stay prepared for severe weather year-round. Once a storm threatens the area, the team moves into place to prepare district facilities according to their plan.

“We did not wait until [Beta] became an official tropical storm,” Facilities, Maintenance, and Operations General Manager Alfred Hoskins said about the most recent storm to threaten the district. “I called the managers and sent out a group text. First thing is to make sure the team is aware of any potential threat, whether it is a tropical storm, depression, or hurricane.”

The department’s plan includes dispatching roofing and structural teams to all HISD facilities and schools to inspect roofs for damage and to secure items that may fly away. Plant operators anchor loose items on campus grounds and prepare spill kits. Additionally, Security Maintenance makes sure all two-way radios and five multi-channel district radios are working.

In anticipation of a power outage, the department also coordinates with elevator and public waste contractors to ensure they’re on standby. Information Technology is instructed to back up district servers to keep fire and burglar alarms running, and the HISD Police Department is on standby, ready to serve as back up and support.

With several weeks left in an exceptionally active hurricane season, minimizing damage and keeping everyone safe remains a priority should another storm strike.

“You can never predict how much rain or damage there will be,” Hoskins said. “But the district is prepared as best as it can be.”