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State law defines a disaster as an “occurrence or imminent threat of widespread or severe damage, injury, or loss of life or property resulting from any natural or man-made cause, including fire, flood, earthquake, wind, storm, wave action, oil spill or other water contamination, volcanic activity, epidemic, air contamination, blight, drought, infestation, explosion, riot, hostile military or paramilitary action, extreme heat, other public calamity requiring emergency action, or energy emergency [a temporary statewide, regional, or local shortage of petroleum, natural gas, or liquid fuel energy supplies that makes emergency measures necessary to reduce demand or allocate supply].” Tex. Government Code §§418.004(1) and (3).
Each city is required to maintain its own emergency management agency or participate in a local interjurisdictional emergency management agency. See 37 TAC §7.1. The mayor is required to notify the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) of the manner in which the city is providing an emergency management program and the person designated to head that program. Id. at §7.3.
A city must prepare, keep current, and distributed to appropriate officials a local emergency management plan or an interjurisdictional emergency management plan that is developed in conjunction with another city or county. Id. at §7.12. The purpose of an emergency management plan is to provide for disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. See Tex. Government Code §418.106(a). Each emergency management plan must be signed by the mayor, and must include, at a minimum: (1) wage, price, and rent controls and other economic stabilization methods; (2) curfews and other movement restrictions; (3) limitations on utility use in areas affected by a disaster; and (4) rules governing entrance to and exit from the affected area, and other security measures. Id. at §418.106(b); 37 TAC §7.12. The mayor, as the emergency management director of the city, may designate a person to serve as the emergency management coordinator. See Tex. Government Code §418.1015. In many cities, the emergency management coordinator is responsible for developing the emergency management plan and coordinating emergency management training. The Governor’s Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) provides plan documentation templates and guidelines for each plan and annex at the Texas Department of Public Safety's Plans Units website. The plan, and any changes, must also be sent to the Governor’s Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM). See 37 TAC §7.12. Each plan must be reviewed annually and updated at least once every five years. See 37 TAC §7.12. For more information on emergency management, city officials may review the TDEM’s Texas Emergency Management Executive Guide (PDF).
In addition, as a condition to receiving federal funds, grants, training, and reimbursement of disaster recovery costs, a city must adopt and implement the National Incident Management System (NIMS) as its incident management system. See id. at §7.13. NIMS is an incident management system that enables organization across the country to work together during incidents of all kinds and sizes.
An appointed public officer of a city who has management or supervisory responsibility and: (1) whose position description, job duties, or assignment includes emergency management responsibilities or (2) who plays a role in emergency preparedness, response, or recovery is required to take a three-hour training on emergency management. See Tex. Government Code §§418.005(a) and (b). The League has interpreted this provision to mean that police chiefs and marshals, as well as a fire chief whose office is created by a home rule charter, should take the training. Other fire chiefs may also wish to take the training out of abundance of caution or after consultation with the city attorney. Any other city officer should take the training if his or her position is created by a home rule charter and has specific emergency management duties as part of the job description. The training must be completed before the 180th day after the public officer takes the oath of office, if required, or when the person assumes his or her responsibilities as a public officer. See id. at §418.005(b).The mayor or the person serving as the emergency management coordinator is also required to complete disaster management training. Id. §§418.101(b) and 418.1015(c).
Additionally, city personnel with a direct role in emergency preparedness, incident management or response are required to complete certain NIMS training depending on their incident command system role. 37 TAC §7.12.
The Governor’s Division of Emergency Management provides emergency management training. Regional liaison officers are also available to assist city officials with their training and other emergency management needs. Currently, the Division of Emergency Management provides these classes at no charge and will pay for a city official’s travel expenses to attend one of its classes. A public officer who completes the training shall be provided with a certificate of course completion. See Tex. Government Code §418.005(e). Such certificate shall be maintained and made available for public inspection. Id.
Training on NIMS is also offered by the TDEM and may be taken in-person or online. A listing of NIMS classes can be found at the Texas Department of Public Safety's NIMS Training page.
An emergency management plan is confidential if it contains sensitive information relating to critical infrastructure or facilities and the safety or security of such infrastructures or facilities could be jeopardized by disclosure of the emergency management plan. See Tex. Government Code §418.106(e). Additionally, the following information is deemed confidential:
(a) Any information maintained by the city for purposes of emergency management or disaster planning that relates to physically or mentally disabled individuals or individuals with special needs is also confidential. Id. at §418.175.
(c) Information that is collected, assembled or maintained by or for a city for the purpose of preventing, detecting, responding to, or investigating an act of terrorism or related criminal activity and: (1) relates to the staffing requirement of an emergency response provider, including a law enforcement agency, a fire-fighting agency, or an emergency services agency; relates to a tactical plan of the provider; or (3) consists of a list or compilation of pager or telephone numbers, including mobile and cellular telephone numbers, of the provider. Id. at §418.176.
(d) Information collected, assembled or maintained by or for a city for the purpose of prevention, detecting or investing an act of terrorism or related criminal activity and relates to an assessment of the risk or vulnerability of persons or property, including critical infrastructure, to an act of terrorism or related criminal activity. Id. at 418.177.
(e) Information related to the construction or assembly of an explosive weapon or a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapon of mass destruction or indicates the specific location of a chemical, biological agent, toxin or radioactive material that is more than likely to be used in the construction or assembly of such weapon or unpublished information relating to a potential vaccine or a device that detects biological agents or toxins. Id. at §418.178.
(f) Encryption codes and security keys for a public communication system if the information is collected for the purpose of preventing, detecting or investing an act of terrorism or related criminal activity. Id. at §418.179.
(g) Information, other than financial information, in possession of the city that is: (1) a part of a report to an agency of the United States; (2) relates to an act of terrorism or related criminal activity; and is specifically required to be kept confidential by federal law, an information sharing agreement or to obtain federal funding. Id. at §418.180.
(g) Information that identifies the technical details of particular vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure to an act of terrorism is confidential. Id. at §418.181.
(h) Information, including access codes and passwords, that related to the specifications, operating procedures, or location of a security system used to protect public or private property from an act of terrorism or related criminal activity. Id. at §418.182.