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CAO's newly established Congressional Regional Office in Ike disaster zone to transition constituents in need to FEMA operation

Several Members of Texas delegation direct FEMA to open new disaster recovery center

On September 17, the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of the United States House of Representatives established a regional emergency District Office at the American Legion Post 490 on Old Galveston Road in Houston, Texas. Using mobile satellite technology, the center was established to give affected Members of Congress temporary, working offices in the Hurricane Ike disaster zone in order to communicate with and respond to the needs of their constituents.

The center immediately began helping thousands of citizens seeking assistance from their respective Members, particularly those interested in filing FEMA claims and finding basic resources, like housing, food and water. Members and congressional support staff quickly realized, however, that FEMA needed to be involved at the newly formed regional District Office and subsequently sent an urgent request to the agency for assistance.

“We saw thousands of people line up for help within hours of opening our doors,” said Robert Noll, the CAO’s head of operations at the emergency communications center. “What was intended to be temporary offices for Members inadvertently became a relief center for Texans in need of immediate disaster relief. Supplying working phone lines and Internet connections was the primary goal of our operation, but these folks needed a more robust response.”

At the emphatic urgings of a bipartisan group of the Texas delegation at the site, led by Congressman Nick Lampson (TX 22), FEMA officials committed the following day to setting up a Disaster Recovery Center, or DRC, across from the Post at nearby Ellington Air Force Base.

Once FEMA establishes its relief operation, the CAO’s Noll explained, the communications center the House of Representatives established will begin referring constituents in need of disaster relief to FEMA staff at the DRC.

“People just want information.  It’s clear to me there are flaws in the emergency response process but our priority now must be to quickly provide assistance that will allow people to rebuild their lives,” said Rep. Lampson.  “Hopefully the Disaster Recovery Center will provide those affected by Ike with answers to the questions they’ve been asking for the past week.”

Initial estimates project that FEMA will have its DRC operational by Saturday, September 20.

“We won’t pull our emergency offices out of Texas until the Members don’t need us there any longer,” said Dan Beard, the House’s Chief Administrative Officer. “We are there to help them, so they can help the citizens they serve.”

Jeff Ventura
Director of Communications
Office of the Chief Administrative Officer
U.S. House of Representatives