Find information on key laws and resources for Texans wanting to learn about emergency management. This page provides information on both resources and contacts that can help when looking for emergency management information in the state. Additionally, this page includes a summary of laws by topic that may impact emergency management in Texas. This section is not intended to be used for legal advice.
On This Page:
- State and Federal Law
- Disaster Preparedness and Community Outreach
- Effective Communication
- Accessible Alerts, Warnings and Notifications
- Accessible Press Conferences and Live Broadcasts
- Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act
- Regulations for Shelters
- Long Term Care Facilities
- State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry (STEAR)
- Critical Care / Chronic Condition Status with Local Utility
How to Prepare
- Texas Prepares: Find Texas-themed video and preparation materials on The Texas Department of Emergency Management website.
- Build a Kit of Essential Supplies: Being prepared for the unexpected brings peace of mind. Texans can build a kit with the essentials their family and pets will need if they must shelter in place or evacuate.
- Make a Plan: Families may not be together if a disaster strikes, so it is important to know which types of disasters could affect the area.
- People with Disabilities and Other Access and Functional Needs Preparation
- Contact your local EM department to address any specific needs to be considered for evacuations or accessing potential disaster services
After a Disaster
Disaster Recovery Guide and eBook: This guide provides information on how individuals, families, and businesses can recover from a disaster such as a wildfire, hurricane, severe weather, and more.
- State of Texas Functional Needs Support Services Plan: An interdisciplinary committee, including Texans with disabilities met to develop this toolkit to help emergency managers plan for the community.
- Mobile TIPS: Project REDD, part of the Center on Disability and Development at Texas A&M University, has developed Mobile TIPS, a mobile-based application for first responders that provides essential, detailed instructions and resources about helping people with disabilities and functional or access needs.
- The Texas Division of Emergency Management has a variety of materials for preparedness and safety tips for different types of disasters and emergencies, including an evacuation checklist.
- Texas Department of State Health Services provides a comprehensive resource, Texas Ready.
- Find basic information regarding emergency preparedness for Texans who are Deaf.
- The Texas Emergency Portal includes information on the hurricane season: preparing for a storm, evacuating to safety, accessing government resources, dealing with emergencies and avoiding scams and frauds.
- Find emergency preparedness information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
- Disability Rights Texas Disaster Preparedness and Recovery
- Information about accessible shelters provided by American Red Cross
- Texas law help Disaster Manual
- Disaster Legal Aid-Pro Se tool for FEMA appeals
State and Federal Law
In Texas, mayors and county judges have responsibility for emergency preparedness and response within their local jurisdictions. These officials appoint an Emergency Management Coordinator (EMC) to manage day-to-day program activities. Programs include:
- Risk identification, prevention and mitigation activities,
- emergency planning outlined within Emergency Operation Plan,
- providing or arranging training for local officials and emergency responders,
- planning and conducting drills and exercises,
- carrying out public education relating to known hazards,
- designing and implementing hazard mitigation programs,
- coordinating whole community emergency response operations during incidents and disasters, and
- carrying out recovery activities in the aftermath of a disaster.
Most local governments have an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) that is active to manage the response to major threats and coordinate internal and external resource support. Responders from other jurisdictions as well as state and federal responders maybe called to assist when local resources are inadequate to deal with a major emergency and are integrated into the local incident command system and emergency operation plans.
Texans can find who their local emergency management contacts are in their county of residence through the TDEM website.
From 1953 to 2021, Texas has had 101 disaster declarations but not every event rises to a federal disaster status. All disasters start and end locally. Judges or mayors are emergency management (EM) directors who have authority to appoint EM coordinators responsible for preparedness, planning, mitigation and response. Local jurisdictions should exhaust all local capabilities before requesting assistance from a higher level of government. There are 31 Disaster District Committees, assigned geographically and led by Department of Public Safety (DPS) with support from TDEM field personnel. Individuals from 39 state agencies, appointed by the governor through Executive Order GA-05, effect an efficient response at the State Operations Center. Agencies provide equipment, personnel or have statutory or regulatory oversight over a particular sector or infrastructure, and play a vital role in identifying necessary waivers that might be impediments to response. A federal disaster declaration allows Texas to engage The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) partners, establishing a critical infrastructure for distribution of essential commodities.
Statutory references include:
- Texas Government Code, Chapter 418: Emergency Management
- Texas Government Code Chapter 421: Homeland Security
- Texas Government Code Chapter 433 : State of Emergency
- Texas Administrative Code, Title 37, Part 1, Chapter 7: Texas Division on Emergency Management
Disaster Preparedness and Community Outreach (Texas Government Code 418)
The following must conduct community outreach, including public awareness campaigns, and education activities on disaster preparedness each year:
- municipalities and counties;
- the Texas Division of Emergency Management;
- the Texas Education Agency;
- the Office of the Comptroller;
- the Texas Department of Insurance;
- the Texas Department of Transportation;
- the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs;
- the Health and Human Services Commission; and
- the Department of State Health Services.
Effective communication is the first step in providing equal access to information and services.
"Effective communication" means that people with disabilities are given information comparable in content and detail to that given to the general public. This communication must be accessible, understandable, and timely.
When people with disabilities can access the same information, perform the same essential tasks, and receive the same services as people who do not have disabilities, the information and services are considered accessible. This applies to professionals from local jurisdictions such as, but not limited to:
- emergency management
- public information official
- first responders
- shelter managers
Find an overview of effective communication requirements during an emergency from the Federal Communication Commission (FCC).
Accessible Alerts, Warnings and Notifications
The following guidelines must be considered when drafting alerts, notifications and warnings.
- When distributing public information, provide clear, step-by-step directions and use an “actions to take” and a “what to do” approach.
- Alert and notification systems might be limited to a certain number of characters. Succinct communication is important.
- Each alert should contain the following information:
- Specific hazard - What kind of hazard is threatening? What are the potential risks for the community?
- Location - Where will the impacts occur? Describe the location so that those without local knowledge can understand their risk.
- Timeframes - When will it arrive at various locations? How long will the impacts last?
- Warning source - Who is issuing the warning? Identify an official source with public credibility.
- Magnitude - What impact is expected and how bad is it likely to get?
- Likelihood - How probable is occurrence of the impact?
- Protective behavior - What protective actions should people take and when? If evacuation is called for, where should people go and what should they take with them?
Modifications for people with disabilities:
- Create spoken messages in addition to written messages.
- Create captions for messages that are consistent with the audible part.
- Compose messages in plain language.
- Include door-to-door outreach when possible. Ring the doorbell, pound on the door and shine a flash light into a window. Some people who are deaf have special “doorbells” that set off a different and visual alert, such as a blinking light. Pounding on the door or shining a light into a window can be more effective than simply knocking because people who can’t hear a knock might respond to the vibration or light. If video remote-interpreting for emergency messages is provided, read more about that service.
Accessible Press Conferences and Live Broadcasts
- Supply a Sign Language Interpreter: Provide a sign language interpreter at press conferences. Because many people who are deaf watch the press conference on television or a live stream on the Internet, the interpreter provides the citizen who is deaf the same communication as a hearing citizen. Videographers should keep the sign language interpreter in the camera frame so that people who are deaf or hard of hearing receive the same information in real time, as the general public does.
- Provide Real-Time Captioning during Live Press Conferences: Provide real-time captioning for people who are hard of hearing, elderly, visual learners, and people who do not know American Sign Language.
- Provide Audible Description of Graphics: When information is presented in a visual manner, describe the information for listeners who are blind or have low vision. For example, instead of saying, “all the counties in red should evacuate,” say “all the counties in red should evacuate; those counties are Travis, Williamson, Bell and McLennan.” A list of shelter locations displayed should also be verbally communicated. Include descriptions for all graphics, charts, or maps displaying emergency information.
Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act
On October 8, 2010, the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) became law. The CVAA updates federal communications law to increase the access of people with disabilities to modern communications. The CVAA makes sure that accessibility laws enacted in the 1980s and 1990s are brought up to date with 21st-century technologies like digital, broadband, and mobile innovations.
The Stafford Act and Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act (PKEMRA) updated by the Disaster Recovery Reform Act in 2018, together with federal civil rights laws, ensure equitable disaster services and the ability to participate and benefit from these services by people with disabilities.
Regulations for Shelters
ADA, Fair Housing, Texas Government Code Chapter 418, Texas Human Resources Code Chapter 121 require integration and equal opportunity for people with disabilities in general population shelters. The Texas Accessibility Standards (TAS), in addition to ADA and other federal mandates, contain scoping and technical requirements for accessibility to sites, facilities, buildings, and elements by people with disabilities.
Long Term Care Facilities
Individuals who reside in long term care facilities (LTCF) are afforded protections due to required emergency preparedness measures. LTCF disaster plans must address among other things communication, evacuation and sheltering in place operations. Talk to administrators of the facility about disaster plans ahead of time to ensure awareness.
State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry (STEAR)
The STEAR program is a free registry that provides local emergency planners and emergency responders with additional information on the needs in their community. Texas communities may use the registry information in different ways. Registration in the STEAR registry DOES NOT guarantee that they will receive a specific or any service during an emergency. For more information on how your community will use information from the STEAR registry, contact your local emergency management office.
Who Should Register?
- People with disabilities
- People with access and functional needs such as:
- People who have limited mobility
- People who have communication barriers
- People who require additional medical assistance during an emergency event
- People who require transportation assistance
- People who require personal care assistance
How to Register
Registration is VOLUNTARY and does not guarantee services. All of the information provided will be kept COMPLETELY CONFIDENTIAL.
- Register online at State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry
- Go to 211 Texas or dial 2-1-1 or use your video telephone relay option of choice to 211 at 877-541-7905 (Texas Information Referral Network)
- Registration forms:
Critical Care / Chronic Condition Status with Local Utility
The Customer Protection Rules of the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) indicate that certain customers may be eligible for designation as “Critical Care” or “Chronic Condition” customer. This designation DOES NOT guarantee an uninterrupted, regular, or continuous power supply. If electricity is a necessity, Texans must make other arrangements for on-site back-up capabilities or other alternatives in the event of loss of electric service.
Who is eligible?
- A residential customer who has a person permanently residing in their home who has been diagnosed by a physician as having a serious medical condition that requires an electric-powered medical device or electric heating or cooling to prevent the impairment of a major life function through a significant deterioration or exacerbation of the person’s medical condition.
- A residential customer who has a person permanently residing in their home who has been diagnosed by a physician as being dependent on an electric-powered medical device to sustain life.
How to apply
- Complete this application to obtain the designation of Critical Care or Chronic Condition Status with the local utility.
- For questions about an application, call the customer’s transmission and distribution utility (TDU) below:
|AEP Texas Central
|AEP Texas North
|Texas-New Mexico Power