H-E-B provides tour of Disaster Response Units

A collection of vehicles took up a portion of the parking lot at Shoreline Church on Wednesday morning. It was a full deployment of H-E-B's Disaster Response Unit, known as a DRU. 

The grocery chain's history of answering calls for help goes back almost to the beginning.

"H-E-B's Spirit of giving really started in 1905 with our founder, Florence. And so, she and her three little boys would take them over to the Guadalupe River, and she would help feed the displaced residents there," said Tamera Jones with H-E-B.

The store’s first big relief effort, according to Jones, was in 1933 after a strong hurricane hit the Rio Grand Valley. Major storm events typically activate the DRUs, but the Panhandle wildfires brought about the most recent deployment.


"It's probably the most rewarding thing you can do," said DRU team leader Frank Senioris.

When Frank Senioris isn't running a DRU, he manages the H-E-B in New Braunfels. Hurricane Harvey, he told FOX 7, is a run he will never forget.

"We went all the way to Beaumont, where they were still dealing with floods, over a week after Harvey had already, like, left the state. And so just to see the devastation and everything, it's, it's one where it kind of humbles you," said Senioris.

Local first responders toured the DRU fleet on Wednesday morning. It includes:

  • A mobile kitchen that can serve 500 meals, a larger set-up can do more than 2,000 an hour
  • There's a fresh water tanker
  • A communications and operations trailer
  • A bunk house
  • Restrooms with showers
  • A rolling pharmacy
  • Business center, where cash withdrawals can be made

"They were there for us and some of our, you know, hardest and almost darkest times that we had in emergencies. They've been a steadfast partner in helping to make sure that we're able to take care of our folks," said Pflugerville Emergency Services Director Joseph Chacon.

The DRUs essentially fill a gap during a crisis.

"It takes some of that pressure off of those local, regional and state assets. They are self-supportive," said Commander Mikel Kane with Austin Travis Co EMS.

Re-creating the H-E-B DRU program would be an expensive endeavor for a small business or community group. But with wildfires a constant threat, and the hurricane season approaching filling a gap, even a small one can have a big impact.

"We can't do it by ourselves," said Rob Vires Chief of Staff for the Austin Fire Department.

Organizing the DRU tour was encouraged by AFD Chief Joel Baker. It’s hoped it will bring about more public and private partnerships.

"Anyone can step in and find a place at this table to help out in the community along the way to make sure we're taking care of folks in difficult times, to rebuild, to reestablish, to help them, in that gap from when the emergencies occurred to when they can actually get back to, some semblance of normal life," said Vires.