Sunday, July 15, 2007

FEMA to pay Home Depot & WalMart to provide Emergency Relief

Disaster plan teams state and retailers
Stores, instead of FEMA, counted on to get supplies to the scene early

Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

When the next hurricane hits Texas, the Gulf region's recovery time may
depend less on the Federal Emergency Management Agency and much more on
Wal-Mart, H-E-B, Home Depot and other large retailers.

"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
water and other aid.

"FEMA can't compete with the private sector," Colley said. "They do it
quicker, smarter, faster every day."

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