The range and scope of devastation from Hurricane Harvey has yet to be realized as torrential rains continue to hammer the Texas Gulf area. Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Elaine Duke stated that, “While the hurricane force winds have diminished, I want to stress that we are not out of the woods yet … Harvey is still a dangerous and historic storm.”

In every sense of the definition, Harvey is a historic and catastrophic natural disaster that will impact people and businesses for years. There are estimates that some of the areas affected by the storm will receive more than 50 inches of rain. The rainfall has created many submerged roads and left more than 300,000 people without power and over 30,000 in temporary shelters. According to the National Weather Service, “This event is unprecedented and all impacts are unknown and beyond anything experienced.”

What is evident that lessons learned and mitigation efforts for Hurricane Harvey are being better applied than in the past with varying degrees of success. Of course, you cannot completely tame Mother Nature, but under the dire circumstances, the exceptional and inspirational spirit of Americans helping each other against the odds and overcoming is inspiring.

First Responders: There is much appreciation to share, and always it begins with first responders. This title represents law enforcement, firefighters and EMT, the Coast Guard, and the 14 urban search and rescue teams who have constantly faced danger over the past few days to save others. First responders from around the country are also volunteering including those from Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia and New York. The rescuers from Virginia included volunteers that are swift water trained, a very valuable capability under the rushing waters environment. The dedication and professionalism of first responders never ceases to amaze and they are still carrying out rescues for many of those who did not evacuate.

DHS/FEMA: FEMA and its administrator, Brock Long, also deserve high praise. FEMA’s mission is “to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate all hazards.” Over 1,800 FEMA-affiliated staff have been deployed to deal with the hurricane. FEMA’s preparation and accomplishments in assisting the evacuation and safety of millions of people from the flooding has helped under the trying circumstances. The prepositioning by the agency of high-water evacuation equipment, and their coordination of shelter, food, clothing and medicine resources and logistics have been a major undertaking that should not go unnoticed. The chart above highlights some of FEMAs activities.

Government: Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke has been hands-on in helping coordinate the response coordination. The federal and state and local governments have been in constant communication before and during the storm. They have worked closely with DHS/FEMA and the array of first responders, especially in notification and evacuation efforts. Operational protocols were already in place. To cope with the continuing rains and flooding, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he had activated and deployed 12,000 members the state’s National Guard to help with disaster relief. In all, government at all levels have performed well under the circumstances.

Humanitarian Organizations and Corporations: Leading organizations and companies such as The Red Cross, The Salvation Army, Direct Relief, Catholic Charities, Jewish Charities, Team Rubicon, Convoy of Hope, AT&T, Home Depot, Airbnb and many others have contributed services, people, funds and supplies. Dealing with any disaster requires a strong and coordinated public/private engagement. If you would personally like to help with continued relief efforts, please contact National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster at

Citizens: Let’s not forget the many good Samaritans. It is the local people with help of volunteers (including the Cajun Navy) who know the terrain and risked life and limb to help their neighbors. Citizens with boats have been helping with rescue operations and played a significant role. Also, personal social media has been used effectively to alert authorities of the nature and location of emergency situations requiring immediate attention. Citizen heroes have risen to the occasion beyond expectations which has become a real part of the American fabric during times of special need.

With unfortunate loss of life and human misery there is no room for any celebration. However, we can all be thankful for both the professionals and volunteers who have made a difference in keeping Hurricane Harvey from being a much worse scenario.

Chuck Brooks is president of Brooks Consulting International. Chuck’s professional industry affiliations include being the Chairman of CompTIA’s New and Emerging Technology Committee, and as a member of the AFCEA Cybersecurity Committee. In government, Chuck has served at the Department of Homeland Security as the first Legislative Director of the Science & Technology Directorate.

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