Commission To Rebuild Texas Offers Post-Harvey Recommendations To Legislature
Governor Greg Abbott’s Commission to Rebuild Texas today offered to the Texas Legislature wide-ranging recommendations to help Texas better prepare for future catastrophic storms in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
“The devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey required a Texas-sized response, and I am incredibly proud of how the people of Texas came together to respond to this challenge even as rebuilding continues to this day,” said Governor Abbott. “Once again, Texans have shown that no force of nature is more powerful than the Texas spirit. I thank Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, who served as chairman, as well as Chief Nim Kidd of the Texas Division of Emergency Management and all of the members of the Commission to Rebuild Texas for their invaluable leadership. As this detailed and forward-thinking report shows, Texas continues to be a leader in disaster response. And by working together to implement the Commission’s recommendations, we will ensure that Texas is better prepared to respond to and mitigate damages from future natural disasters.”
“Texas enjoys the best rescue operation in the nation because our first responders train year-round,” said Chancellor Sharp. “It is important that we treat disaster recovery with the same commitment, and that we train and prepare our local and state officials to deal with the maze of recovery issues. The next natural disaster is a question of when, not if.”
Among the recommendations in the 178-page report, “Eye of the Storm,” based on lessons learned during the response to Hurricane Harvey, the State of Texas should:
• Form an ongoing recovery task force made up of county extension agents as well as staff from appropriate state agencies and nonprofit organizations;
• Predesignate a group of experts ready to assemble immediately for large-scale disasters to help response and early recovery efforts function more efficiently;
• Maintain a single, well-publicized State website for post-disaster information as well as investigate better use of 911, social media and mobile apps to communicate with the public and local officials;
• Develop catastrophic debris management procedures, encouraging local jurisdictions to adopt debris management plans as well as establishing a contracting template to protect against unscrupulous contractors;
• Expand the role of the Texas Department of Transportation in debris removal, a first during Harvey recovery, after future catastrophic storms; and
• Create a case management program at the state level to replace the federal version to speed up the response to individual needs.
The Commission also recommends that the Texas Division of Emergency Management be integrated into the extensive emergency management functions currently performed by The Texas A&M University System to improve the training of local officials in disaster assistance, emergency management training, mitigation and preparedness planning, and emergency response.
Following this recommendation, the Governor announced that the Texas Division of Emergency Management, under the leadership of Chief Kidd, will now operate within The Texas A&M University System. A memorandum of understanding has been signed by the Texas A&M System and the Texas Department of Public Safety; Chief Kidd will continue to head the Texas Division of Emergency Management as a vice chancellor of the A&M System.
Other recommendations offered in the report will require the cooperation of Congress and the federal government, including the creation of a single intake form and an automated intake system so disaster survivors do not have to fill out so many applications for services.
The Governor’s Commission also looked at the need to future-proof the state’s infrastructure. The report recommended prioritizing more than 4,000 potential projects and establishing a study committee to evaluate and propose options for a state-local partnership to help future-proof Texas against flood events on a watershed basis.
The Commission will conduct a legislative briefing at 3:00 pm today. A livestream will be available on the Texas A&M University System's Facebook page.