Hurricane Relief: FEMA is Outshined by Business Owners HEB, Mattress Mack

By Heather Steele

LinkedIn ran an article recently on how a local grocery chain, HEB, is bringing relief to areas hit by Hurricane Harvey much faster and much more efficiently than FEMA or other governmental disaster relief agencies can get there.

I am impressed and yet not surprised at the ingenuity and decisiveness of Scott McClelland, the president of HEB’s Houston Division, in selecting only the bestselling products to stock, in foregoing shipments of floral for shipments of water, and in generally giving very efficient and effective instruction to his suppliers to keep his stores running and helping the people of Houston.

No governmental agency, no matter the dollars, can ever top the ability of the small (and even larger) business owners in a community to rally around their businesses and families to serve in times of crisis. Mattress Mack opening his store for displaced residents is another example.

FEMA, and many other government agencies, would be well served to look at the example of McClellan’s efficient decision-making in crafting their policies for disaster responsiveness. The federal government is a slow behemoth when it comes to responding, and as has been shown by Mattress Mack and HEB, responses can be achieved much more quickly and decisively.


Heather Steele is a litigation partner practicing in Northern Virginia who is working on a book about her experiences as a litigation attorney. Mom to three young daughters, she writes about parenting and lawyering on her blog, “What’s The Deal, Heather Steele.”

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