June 20, 2024

After the Storm Has Passed

Some Highlights – long post of praise for good work.

Since April, Houston government, nonprofit and private sector leaders have been in the interesting posture of preparing for hurricane season, responding to floods and derecho, while anticipating impact of tropical storm Alberto. Mayor Whitmire’s press conference this weekend highlighted new City of Houston rescue and response resources and equipment, but also handled questions of response to derecho and flooding and encouragement to individuals and communities to stay ready. Video clip – some of my remarks highlighting response efforts… what we did well.

Shout outs go to:

HEB as a model of corporate preparedness and responsibility. HEB invests heavily in preparedness so that they can be operational under all kinds of stresses and conditions, and they maintain that culture throughout the company ALL THE TIME. But HEB goes well beyond anything self-serving with their planning and response to impacted communities. They provided water, ice, a mobile kitchen, and cash. Rolling up a kitchen to serve 2,500 people per meal as long as the power was out. Then giving also to the Greater Houston Disaster Alliance Fund. I think HEB is a community development organization disguised as a grocery store chain. We love them because we know they care about us.

Food was a bigger issue in this storm than in previous events because we have more people without extra resources to replace ruined food and because food is more expensive. The Houston Food Bank stood up a response remarkable in both scale and speed. Through their network of over two hundred community nonprofit and faith-based partners they pushed out more than eight million pounds of food, addressing widespread storm cause food insecurity. Even though they had every elected official, community organization and volunteer calling – they remained responsive. They took a large number of random and chaotic requests and orchestrated a coordinated response delivery. The way they organize and use volunteers is worth emulating. Thank you to those of you who packed those boxes!

The Greater Houston Disaster Alliance, born of an agreement between United Way and the Greater Houston Community Foundation, provides a permanently organized way for people to give in the aftermath of disasters and the means to deploy those precious private contributions in a way that is thoughtful and deliberative. It corrects past inefficiencies without adding bureaucracy. Its use is supported by both county and city and all major philanthropic institutions making it a bit of a marvel of collaboration. Over the past month the fund gathered almost $3,000,000 to address critical needs. Though limited, it will help address some of the more dire and critical cases of home damage and economic hardship.

Finally, I know it’s breaking the laws of social media to praise elected officials and government. Our current theory seems to be that we can criticize and berate people into performing to our expectations. But allow me to break that rule and say that Mayor Whitmire and his team set a tone of responsive action and openness. For a relatively new team to respond to this storm, which gave little notice, reflected this administration’s willingness to work with a host of outside institutions to get things done. Moreover, I am grateful for a mayor that created a working group for disaster response in JANUARY. The day after he took office. That is remarkable. Leadership and experience matter. And Chief Munoz as Director of OEM, reflected the Mayor’s willingness to collaborate and continues working to insure an effective handoff between the emergency phase and the longer-term recovery work. So important.

And in case any of you are wondering – none of the organizations I mentioned are paying me to say nice things about them. More nice things to come about other high performing dedicated organizations doing good work after disasters.



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