Public and Private Sectors Mobilize for Hurricane Relief

September 1, 2017 - (5 min read)

This week, the catastrophic flooding and winds of Hurricane Harvey impacted millions of Americans across Texas and Louisiana. But while the storm’s effects were vast, much of the greatest damage was averted by the swift actions of local leaders, first responders, heroic citizens and outside organizations.

As the floodwaters recede and the rebuilding begins, NLC’s partners are offering a wide variety of free tools to support city leaders and impacted communities. Here are some of the best:


Esri’s Disaster Response Program, created specifically for events like Harvey, provides software, data coordination, technical support and other GIS assistance to any organization that needs it. Even before Harvey’s landfall, Esri mobilized direct assistance to the Red Cross, the Texas Department of Emergency Management, the Texas Health Department and FEMA.

The program supports immediate requests from any community, not just Esri customers, and helps utilize and better understand specific workflows from human service needs, damage collection, windshield survey, common situational awareness and citizen communication, to post-disaster clean up.

Their Tropical Storm Harvey: Current Conditions suite provides tabs linking to track & forecast, watches and warnings, rain forecast, flood gauges, traffic & alerts, road closures, shelter locations, and crowdsourced photos. The Hurricanes and Tropical Cyclones Story Map can help identify the potential impact of the storm, including:

  • Public Information Map – identifies the current and recent location of Harvey as well as forecast positions and probable track; additionally, the shaded area is called the “cone of uncertainty,” the likely path of the center of Harvey.
  • Impact Summary Map – shows the storm surge by identifying locations most at risk for life-threatening inundation from storm surge; accordingly, to Esri’s data, the total population at risk is 248k people, 99k households, and 10k businesses.
  • Forecast Precipitation Map – forecasts the amount of rain expected within the next 72-hour period

Individuals organizations seeking GIS assistance from Esri can request assistance online or contact the Esri Disaster Response Program directly.



In response to the flooding following Hurricane Harvey, AirBnb is expanding their Disaster Response Program to provide free temporary housing accommodations to affected residents and helping emergency responders and relief workers. Representatives are working with many partners to spread the word, as well as add more hosts and available housing. All available housing will be free to evacuees through September 25.

Responders and support partners can view $0 listings for Hurricane Harvey online to identify places to stay. For organizations without a corporate account, AirBnB representatives will create a business travel account to help book.


Institute for Building Technology and Safety

In order to inform cities as they weather and recover from major storms, IBTS has released a disaster-response case study on the city of Central, Louisiana. The IBTS Central team, who are members of the Central community themselves, have performed municipal services for the city since 2011 under a nonprofit-public partnership contract.

This case study summarizes the lessons learned and experiences gained by the City of Central officials and municipal services staff, and IBTS staff during the Louisiana floods in August 2016. Flood events are presented as they unfolded, highlighting the steps that the city and IBTS took to respond to the flood and how the city is navigating the recovery process — paired with commentary from those who were there, offering lessons learned before, during and after the disaster.

The Home Depot Foundation

The Home Depot Foundation has committed $1 million to support Hurricane Harvey disaster relief efforts in Texas and Louisiana. Funds will be distributed to several nonprofit partners including the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Convoy of Hope, Operation Blessing and Team Rubicon to support both short-term relief and rebuilding needs. In addition to helping the communities affected by Hurricane Harvey, the Foundation’s employee assistance program, The Homer Fund, will provide emergency financial assistance to associates who have been affected by this tragedy.


Accela is offering all affected government entities free access to a cloud based rapid damage assessment solution that can be used by city and county inspectors to streamline the process of evaluating properties or basic life safety, as well as collecting information required for FEMA relief. Accela undertook a similar effort with the City of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Please reach out to Tim Woodbury at for more information.



The federal government is actively providing support to states, local communities, and tribes as Hurricane Harvey, now downgraded to a Tropical Storm, continues to impact the coastline and inland areas of Texas. FEMA’s number one priority is supporting safety and life-sustaining actions.

Six federal Urban Search & Rescue task forces with the National Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) System, encompassing more than 400 personnel, are staged in San Antonio, Texas, prepared to support affected states and tribes as needed and requested. Each of these teams has swift water rescue capabilities.

A US&R Incident Support Team is staged in College Station, Texas, to support the teams during their deployment. FEMA is providing around-the-clock staffing at its distribution center in Fort Worth, Texas, and is shipping additional commodities as necessary and requested.


American Red Cross

The American Red Cross (ARC) has mobilized a massive relief effort to provide shelter, food and comfort. Hundreds of Red Cross volunteers from across the country are on the ground now to support shelter operations. The Red Cross has tractor trailer loads of relief supplies in the region — enough to support more than 20,000 people for weeks. The supplies include cots, blankets, ready-to-eat meals, comfort kits, and cleaning supplies. In addition, the Red Cross has prepositioned blood products in Houston to help ensure they can maintain an adequate blood supply through the weekend.

Photo: Getty Images.