The State of Texas plans to look towards the private sector for relief when the next big hurricane hits.
"If FEMA shows up, good," said Jack Colley, chief of the Governor's Division of Emergency Management. ''But we're not waiting."
Call it one more example of the lingering Hurricane Katrina effect, but Colley and his team are looking past the traditional go-through-FEMA-to-get-ice kind of emergency management model.
This new strategy, borne during 2005's Hurricane Rita and fine-tuned in the two years since by the state's emergency agency, has retailers conducting mock drills alongside government officials.
"FEMA was an old contact point for ice, water, etc," Colley explained from his agency's state operations center in the basement of Texas Department of Public Safety headquarters in Austin. "The private sector is willing and able to do this for us."
For the past two years, Colley and Texas Homeland Security Director Steve McCraw have cultivated direct relationships with retailers after watching Louisiana and Mississippi officials dial FEMA in vain for food, water and other aid.
"FEMA can't compete with the private sector," Colley said. "They do it quicker, smarter, faster every day."
It's really simple. When FEMA was run by a competent administrator and was given a mandate to succeed, it did. When it's run by a crony with no experience or interest in disaster recovery, it becomes a joke that needs to be worked around. Given the right kind of Presidential administration in place, there's no reason to believe FEMA can't be effective again. One can hardly blame the state of Texas for feeling compelled to deal with the current reality. But faith in the private sector has nothing to do with it.Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 16, 2007 to Hurricane Katrina