The State of Texas has long been aware that it is exposed to a variety of natural hazards. Of particular concern are flood hazards associated with thunderstorms, hurricanes, and tropical storms. The State of TexasHazard Mitigation Plan (January 2000; accessible online at http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/dem) was reviewed and is summarized below.
Originally prepared by the Texas Division of Emergency Management to fulfill the requirements set forth by Congress in the Stafford Act (Section 409), the State’s Hazard Mitigation Plan will be reviewed and revised to satisfy new planning requirements prompted by the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000.
The State’s plan acknowledges that people and property in Texas are at risk from a variety of hazards that have the potential to cause widespread loss of life and damage to property, infrastructure, and the environment. The plan “establishes hazard mitigation goals, strategies, and specific measures designed to reduce the occurrence or severity of the consequences of hazards.” It also documents procedures for implementation and administration of certain mitigation grant programs.
The State Hazard Mitigation Team is designated to coordinate and influence mitigation and is composed of several agencies that participate on the Emergency Management Council. Primary agencies are the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs; Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; Texas Department of Environmental Quality (formerly the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission); Texas Department of Transportation, General Land Office; Railroad Commission of Texas; Texas Department of Insurance; Texas Forest Service; Texas Engineering Extension Service; and Texas Division of Emergency Management. Brief summaries of each of these primary agencies are provided, noting key natural hazard mitigation measures associated with each agency. For the most part, existing measures are ongoing agency functions and responsibilities.
As currently structured, the State’s Hazard Mitigation Plan contains attachments outlining specific strategies for dealing with hazards related to floods, wildfires, and tornadoes. Strategies particularly pertinent to local jurisdictions are described below:
Flood Mitigation. Eleven percent of the state’s land area is mapped as flood-prone, with an estimated 675,000 households located in these areas. Mitigation recommendations include:
Passage by the Texas Legislature of new laws that create/mandate sound floodplain management by all political subdivisions.
That all owners of dams, levees, floodwalls and other protective works conduct studies to evaluate effectiveness and soundness and to incorporate evacuation and warning into operations plans.
Implementation of a statewide information and education program, with local emphasis, to address sale of flood insurance and public awareness.
Seek broader authority to protect, restore, and preserve natural and cultural floodplain resources.
Wildfire Mitigation. In an average year, 1.5 million acres burn in Texas. Many areas are vulnerable to wildfire during dry years, although those with very sparse vegetation are less likely to burn due to low quantities of fuel. Mitigation recommendations include:
Development of a statewide wildfire reporting system.
Establishment of mutual aid agreements and improvements in training.
Installation of automated weather systems at key locations.
Assistance to rural communities via centralized purchasing and development of dry hydrants.
Tornado Mitigation. Texas tornadoes occur with greatest frequency during the spring and early summer months, with the majority occurring in April, May, and June. Mitigation recommendations include:
Promotion of expanded normal peril and windstorm insurance.
Promotion of enhanced public awareness.
Adoption and enforcement of building codes and/or design criteria, especially for shelters in public facilities, schools, and mobile home parks.
Enhancement of warning capabilities to ensure that +90% of the state’s population receives accurate and timely warnings to allow adequate response.
Requirements for mitigation planning are set forth in four programs administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. These are described below. Although slightly different, all programs outline the same basic planning process (described in Section 2.1). The Pearland Plan is intended to satisfy the basic requirements each of the four programs:
Flood Mitigation Assistance Program. To qualify to receive grant funds to implement projects such as acquisition or elevation of flood-prone homes, local jurisdictions must prepare a mitigation plan. The plan must include specific elements and be prepared following the process outlined in the NFIP’s Community Rating System.
Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. By November 2004, to qualify for post-disaster mitigation funds, local jurisdictions must adopt a mitigation plan that is approved by FEMA.
Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program. By November 2003, to qualify for pre-disaster mitigation funds, local jurisdictions must adopt a mitigation plan that is approved by FEMA.
NFIP’s Community Rating System (CRS). The CRS offers recognition to communities that exceed minimum requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program. Recognition comes in the form of discounts on flood insurance policies purchased by citizens. The CRS offers credit for mitigation plans that are prepared according to a multi-step process.