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In Houston, Hurricane Harvey Aid Has Been First Responders, 'Texans Helping Texans'


All morning, we are bringing you updates on the devastation in Houston and other areas in Texas that have been ravaged by Tropical Storm Harvey. Michael Walter is public information officer for the Office of Emergency Management in Houston. He joins us now on the line. Thanks so much for being with us.


MARTIN: Michael, where are you right now, and what are you seeing?

WALTER: So I've been in the city's emergency operations center since this started. We have representation here from all of our first-response agencies. We have representation from the U.S. Coast Guard, a lot of state and federal agencies, as well. And, really, our job is to try to keep visibility of what's going on in the city, make sure that our response agencies have what they need and coordinate the way that the city, the county, the state of Texas, the federal government, nonprofit partners and the business sector work together to try to help folks get through what is a pretty catastrophic event for our city.

MARTIN: So you have been in the hub of the emergency effort there. Have you been able to, with your own eyes, see the devastation?

WALTER: I have been able to briefly venture out. You know, really our job here is to maintain visibility. And so we do have cameras all throughout the city. You know, we've been seeing the coverage just like everybody else. And it's heartbreaking for us. This is our city. This is - these are our neighbors. These are our friends. And, you know, our job is to ensure that we can do everything humanly possible to try to relieve the suffering and to get the help out to those who need it.

MARTIN: Earlier in the program, we talked with the vice president of the American Red Cross, who said that this was, in his long career in emergency management - this is the worst disaster he has ever seen because the flooding is already so bad and is expected to get worse. How do you feel the emergency management process is unfolding right now? Is the situation as under control as it as it should be?

WALTER: So one of the things we have to remember is that these are disasters. And these are things that - you know, we can make the best forecasts about what's going to happen. And, oftentimes, those don't materialize the best way. What I can tell you is that I have never seen so much coordination. I have never seen such a request - when a request goes out, I've never seen so many agencies so willing to jump in and help.

There's a lot of things we can manage. And then there's a lot of things we can't. And all we can do is get our resources out there the best we can. We've seen an incredible response from the United States Coast Guard, assisting our residents as many of them become trapped in their homes. We've also seen neighbors helping neighbors.


WALTER: And that's - you know, we can have all the first responders in the world. You can call in the National Guard. You can call in all sorts of resources. But, ultimately, Texans helping Texans is what is going to help us get through this.

MARTIN: Just seconds remaining - you say that coordination is good right now. Is that because of lessons learned in previous storms?

WALTER: It's lessons learned in previous storms. And here in Texas, we have a very robust emergency management system because of that threat from tropical storms. And, you know, just being the size that we are, we are blessed to have that here.

MARTIN: Michael Walter, public information officer for the Office of Emergency Management in Houston. Thanks so much for your time.

WALTER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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