Today, I testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Transportation on Texas' response to Hurricane Ike. I appreciated the Senators giving me the opportunity to talk about this important issue.
I began my testimony by recognizing the great accomplishments and teamwork of government, industry and citizens during the storm. Losing one life is one too many; however, and if it was not for the incredible efforts by Texans, the loss of human life could have been substantially higher. Great work and preparation saved lives.
The state's emergency response system was managed professionally and comprehensively. For the most part, the State Operation Center's response was reliable and quick. Pre-positioning of fuel, food, personnel and resources was critical and from my vantage point the agriculture community came forth with a cohesive response, donating significant amounts of time and resources to help fellow Texans in need.
With all this said, we must prepare for future disasters and learn from our mistakes. TDA, the Texas Animal Health Commission, AgriLife Extension, and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association have convened an initial post review meeting and have scheduled follow-up meetings to address some issues initiated an after-action review process and will improve upon the response based upon our lessons-learned.
The agriculture industry's response needs stronger coordination among agriculture-related agencies. Pre-planned collaboration is lacking for agriculture needs beyond animal health. Key entities need to be assigned responsibilities and trained; plus it is crucial to reduce confusion regarding the process for accessing FEMA assistance. The state needs to consider forming an Animal Incident Management Team to address these issues.
Texans should be proud of the response after this deadly storm hit, but as a state we must continue to work hard so we are even more prepared for future hurricanes and other disasters.