The locals bring special-needs evacuees to those hubs, and then they will evacuate along evacuation routes, Padilla said. "We have set up temporary fueling locations that consist of tanker trucks outfitted with dispensers," he said. "The Texas Military Forces provide the Porta Potties, refreshments, the comfort issues for special-needs folks, and then they get back on the bus and continue to their next destination."

Two years of preparation since Rita paid off as the region was more than ready for the effects of Dean. A result of the effort is increased communication between the private sector and state and local governments.

"The best thing that occurred from the Texas plan is the communication and collaboration we've had between industry and government," Padilla said. "That has been paramount. During Rita, we were doing our own thing, the state was doing their own thing, and we didn't communicate. Now we know what's happening, and we're able to provide feedback to the state and local government."

Home Field Advantage
The idea of enlisting the private sector to provide goods and services they deal with every day is proving a much better tactic than waiting for FEMA to ramp up and arrive several days after an event.

"With the private sector, you have experts in the field who can go right into a situation, and many of these organizations and companies are already situated where the disaster is happening or is going to happen," Moody said.

That gives them a distinct advantage over FEMA, she said. "FEMA isn't a grocery store, FEMA isn't a fuel tanker, they aren't medical care providers. It's not an apples-to-apples comparison."

"And really," Padilla said, "the oil and gas industry has been doing this for more than 100 years. We pull oil out of the ground, we refine it, we put it into a distribution network, we sell it at retail. We have the infrastructure, we do it on a day-to-day basis whether there's a hurricane, an earthquake or just a regular day."

Moody did emphasize that FEMA can't be counted on is inaccurate. "Our federal partners supported us a great deal in this effort and efforts of the past," she said. "This is just one more avenue for help. The reason we take this approach to emergency management is because the state has limited resources, and partnering with the private sector certainly helps fill a void - and helps fill it fast."

Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor  |  Justice and Public Safety Editor