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Hurd on the Hill: Texas Strong

September 11, 2017
Hurd on the Hill
Together we will rebuild and be stronger than ever

Hurricane Harvey left many fellow Texans with their lives in danger and homes destroyed. Two weeks after the unprecedented flooding, folks in many areas of the state still have multiple feet of water inside their living rooms. Schools are closed. Families are displaced. Businesses are only beginning to reopen their doors. It’s still too early to quantify the storm’s total impact on our economy, but we know it will be – and has already been—immense.

However, the rapid response to this natural disaster has been exemplary. Ironically, as September is National Disaster Preparedness Month, it’s important to highlight the hard work and coordination of our first responders that saved countless lives and made Texas resilient in Harvey’s wake. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has done an incredible job aligning federal, state, and local agencies while seamlessly integrating private and non-profit partners into coordinated missions. Other federal agencies have aided these response efforts as well, like the Small Business Administration which assists small businesses and homeowners as they begin to rebuild through its disaster relief loan program.

At the San Antonio Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which is led by the San Antonio Fire Department, dozens of city, county, and state organizations worked together to prepare for the storm hitting San Antonio, but then immediately shifted to disaster response along the Gulf Coast. The EOC provided critical, round-the-clock support to local and statewide efforts in the days and weeks following the Hurricane.  Given San Antonio’s geographic location within the state, and the work of the San Antonio Fire Department and its local first responder and law enforcement partners, the San Antonio EOC has become a crucial disaster response point for the State of Texas.

To recover from lives lost, thousands displaced, and billions of dollars in damage, Texas needs all hands on deck. Additionally as Irma hovers over Florida, we must be sure that our disaster response agencies have sufficient resources to save lives and minimize damage. This is why I supported emergency funding for disaster relief and recovery needs last week, so that FEMA can continue operations in Texas – and now in Florida. We have a long road ahead and I am doing my part to provide much-needed relief to survivors, first responders, and all of those affected during this tremendous time of need.

The efforts of state and local officials along with other private companies and non-profit partners have been nothing short of remarkable, and are absolutely critical for our fellow Texans to recover from this natural disaster. We’ve seen neighbors helping neighbors, and strangers helping strangers.  Tens of thousands of Americans have volunteered, brought down boats, and lent a helping hand. We have a long road ahead, but it is inspiring to see that people are helping people.

I was humbled to witness a few of these selfless acts firsthand in San Antonio. At that time, the American Red Cross in San Antonio had mobilized 10,139 volunteers from the area and was training an additional 10,000 in the next five days. At the survivor shelter – one of the five in San Antonio and more than 230 set up across the state, I met volunteers  who had been on their feet for five days straight welcoming and helping Harvey evacuees. Another local non-profit organization had set up an arts and crafts area for children to stay occupied as they waited to return home.

The warehouse at the Texas Diaper Bank was bustling with volunteers sorting and accepting boxes of diapers and baby supplies for families in desperate need. I also had the chance to speak with local law enforcement, whose efforts have been vital in keeping people safe as they returned to their homes to collect belongings and access damages.

The San Antonio Food Bank was the lead organization in the San Antonio area collecting food donations for Harvey victims and first responders. To date, they’ve distributed over 29,000 meals and more than 350,000 pounds of  food and supplies to Hurricane survivors The response from organizations, businesses, and neighbors is the real reason that we are Texas Strong.

Disaster Preparedness Month could not have come at more fitting time during the aftermath of Harvey, Irma, and today, on the sixteenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Disasters do not plan ahead, but we can. We must continue seamless coordination among first responders, government agencies, non-profits, and private companies across the state and nation to minimize further loss of life and destruction. Together we will rebuild and be stronger than ever.