Texas Emergency Management and Homeland Security Statutory Authorities Summarized
CRS Report for Congress
Texas Emergency Management
and Homeland Security
Statutory Authorities Summarized
September 22, 2005
Specialist in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
L. Cheryl Runyon and Kae M. Warnock
Government and Finance Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Texas Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Statutory Authorities Summarized
The Texas Disaster Act of 1975 contains the key emergency management
provisions for the state of Texas (Tex. Government §418.001 et seq.). The governor
is authorized to establish an emergency management council to provide advice on
emergency management issues. The coordinator of the Division of Emergency
Management for the state also serves as the lead drought officer for state. Wildfire
and drought are significant natural disaster concerns for the state and are addressed in
specific statutes. Continuity of government provisions call upon former legislators to
serve as emergency interim successors.
This report is one of a series that profiles emergency management and homeland
security statutory authorities of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico,
American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each profile identifies the more
significant elements of state statutes, generally as codified. Congressional readers may
wish to conduct further searches for related provisions using the Internet link
presented in the last section of this report. The National Conference of State
Legislatures provided primary research assistance in the development of these profiles
under contract to the Congressional Research Service (CRS). Summary information
on all of the profiles is presented in CRS Report RL32287, Emergency Management
and Homeland Security Statutory Authorities in the States, District of Columbia, and
Insular Areas: A Summary, by Keith Bea, L. Cheryl Runyon, and Kae M. Warnock.
This report will be updated as developments warrant.
Entities with Key Responsibilities.................................1
Preparedness ................................................. 3
Types of Assistance............................................4
Funding ..................................................... 6
Continuity of Government Operations..............................8
Other ....................................................... 8
For Further Research..........................................11
List of Tables
Table 1. Key Emergency Management and Homeland Security Terms Defined in
Texas Statutes, with Citations...................................10
Texas Emergency Management and
Homeland Security Statutory Authorities
Entities with Key Responsibilities
Governor: The governor must meet dangers that could confront the state and the
people as a result of disasters, as well as disruptions caused by energy emergencies,
and may issue related executive orders and amend or rescind them. The governor
serves as commander-in-chief of agencies, boards, and commissions with emergency
responsibilities during a disaster as well as recovery after a disaster, and may delegate
or assign this command authority. The governor is authorized to suspend any
regulatory statute related to the conduct of state business; use all state and political
subdivisions’ resources to cope with disasters; and temporarily reassign staff,
functions, and resources to assist with emergency services. In addition, the governor
is authorized to commandeer private property (with compensation); recommend
evacuation of all or part of the population from a stricken area, prescribe evacuation
routes, transportation modes and destinations, and control ingress and egress; and
suspend or limit sales of alcohol, firearms, and explosives. The governor is directed
to decide which municipal corporations need emergency management programs based
upon vulnerability and capability to respond, and to recommend the establishment and
maintenance of such organizations (Tex. Gov’t Code §§418.011, 418.012,
Emergency Management Council: The governor is authorized to establish the
council by executive order to advise and assist with disaster mitigation, preparation,
response and recovery policies. Members include heads of state agencies, boards,
commissions, and representatives of volunteer groups (Tex. Gov’t Code §418.013).
Division of Emergency Management (DEM): The DEM, within the office of the
governor, prepares and maintains the currency of the state emergency management
plan, assists local governments with the design of plans, and coordinates federal, state,
and local emergency management activities, among other actions. DEM officials
determine the needs of victims; procure supplies and equipment; adopt standards for
local and interjurisdictional emergency management plans; coordinate mobile support
units; provide training and public information programs; survey industries and private
resources; and establish registries of persons with training and skills, equipment and
temporary housing, among other actions (Tex. Gov’t Code §§418.041, 418.042,
Coordinator of Division of Emergency Management: The coordinator serves as
the state drought manager, is responsible for managing and coordinating drought
response sections in the state water plan, and serves as chair of the drought
preparedness council. The coordinator is charged with establishing an information
and communications network to inform interested parties and the general public about
drought potential (Tex. Water Code §§16.055 (a)).
Drought Preparedness Council: The council is responsible for the assessment of
and public reports on drought monitoring and water supply conditions; advising the
governor on drought conditions; developing state drought response provisions for the
state emergency management and water plans; advising regional groups on plans;
coordinating with state, federal and local agencies; and reporting to the legislature on
drought conditions (Tex. Water Code §16.055 (b, e)).
Regional wildfire coordinator: The coordinator trains, prepares, and coordinates
fire fighters to respond to wildfires locally, regionally, and statewide; informs the
statewide coordination center about wildfires and resource needs; communicates with
federal agencies; assists and promotes mutual aid agreements; develops wildfire strike
teams; assesses training needs; coordinates response activities with state disaster
districts; and acquires federal equipment (Tex. Education Code §88.119 (b-c)).
Texas Forest Service: The service is the lead agency in providing and
coordinating training to fight wildfires (Tex. Education Code §88.120). The director
of the State Forest Service must coordinate wildfire control in rural areas or in areas
where rural and urban areas meet. The six regions established by the director must
share the same boundaries as state disaster districts, if practicable. The director must
establish a regional command post to assist in coordinating response to wildfires and
other disasters, and must have mobile communications equipment (Tex. Education
Statewide Fire Coordinator Center: The center provides dispatching services,
monitors wildfires, coordinates response, provides liaison with the state emergency
operations center, and assists in obtaining resources (Tex. Education Code §88.118).
Presiding officer of governing body of political subdivision: The presiding officer
of a local government must notify DEM about the local emergency management
program and identify the agency responsible for the program, along with other
information (Tex. Gov’t Code §418.101).
County: Each county must maintain an emergency management program or
participate in a local or interjurisdictional emergency management program, and
serves as the first channel for requesting assistance. If requests exceed the capability
of a county, the request is forwarded to the state in accordance with the state
emergency management plan. Each county employs a liaison officer to work with
state and federal emergency management counterparts on mitigation, preparedness,
response and recovery (Tex. Gov’t Code §§418.102,418.105). Counties affected by
droughts must publish a notice of a disaster declaration due to drought conditions and
give notice to the chair of a regional water planning group and developers of water
conservation plan, who in turn implement their plan (Tex. Water Code §16.055 (g)).
Disaster emergency funding board: See “Funding,” below.
The comprehensive state emergency management plan maintained by DEM must
be developed with the advice of local government, business, and labor. The plan must
identify areas vulnerable to disasters, recommend zoning and building restrictions, as
well as land use controls and mitigation measures (Tex. Gov’t Code §418.042).
DEM must monitor weather conditions. If precipitation may result from
“weather modification operations” and create a disaster, or contribute to the severity
of a disaster, the division shall request suspension of permits for such operations. No
permits for such operations may be issued until the disaster has passed (Tex. Gov’t
Each local or interjurisdictional agency must prepare and maintain an emergency
management plan with wage, price and rent controls to cope with economic impacts
from disasters, including curfews, blockades, limits on utility use in disaster areas,
ingress and egress, and security measures. Plans must identify the disaster
responsibilities of local agencies and officials and channels of assistance (Tex. Gov’t
Fire departments must develop and maintain incident management systems and
train personnel, in accordance with National Fire Protection Association standards
(Tex. Gov’t Code §419.044).
A fire chief may inspect chemicals on-site to plan fire department activities in
case of an emergency. Facility operators must provide information for emergency
planning purposes to the appropriate fire chief or local emergency planning committee
about the types and amounts of hazardous chemicals at facilities (Tex. Health &
Safety Code §§506.008, 507.007).
County building authorities may include civil defense shelters in underground
facilities (Tex. Local Gov’t Code §293.031).
The state drought preparedness council develops and implements state drought
preparedness plans to mitigate effects of drought. Plans must provide organizational
structure for sharing information, identify duties and responsibilities for agencies,
coordinate with state and federal agencies, and provide an inventory of state and
federal programs (Tex. Water Code §16.0551).
The governor, by executive order or proclamation, may declare a state of disaster,
which continues until the governor finds that the threat has passed or emergency
conditions no longer exist. A declaration remains in force for a maximum of 30 days,
subject to renewal by the governor. The order must be disseminated to the public and
filed as specified. The governor is to terminate a declaration by an executive order.
The legislature may terminate a declaration at any time, at which point the governor
must issue an executive order ending the declaration. Executive orders or
proclamations issued pursuant to this authority must describe the nature of the
disaster, the area threatened, and conditions that resulted in the declaration or its
termination (Tex. Gov’t Code §418.014). The governor’s disaster declaration
activates preparedness and response aspects of the disaster recovery and rehabilitation
sections of state emergency management plan (Tex. Gov’t Code §418.015(a,b)).
The presiding officer of the governing body of a political subdivision may
declare a local state of disaster, for a maximum period of seven days, with renewals
or extensions possible with the approval of the governing body. A local order
declaring or terminating a disaster must be given general publicity and filed with the
appropriate city secretary or county clerk. A local declaration activates the response
and rehabilitation aspects of the appropriate local emergency management plan (Tex.
Gov’t Code §418.108).
Types of Assistance
The state comptroller of public accounts is authorized to assist any taxpayer
regarding business records damaged or destroyed by natural disaster (Tex. Gov’t Code
The governor may purchase or lease temporary housing and make it available to
political subdivisions for use by disaster victims. In addition, the governor is
authorized to acquire sites for temporary housing by advancing or loaning funds from
any appropriation; allocating funds provided by any public or private agency, or
executing temporary housing projects in partnership with political subdivisions. The
governor may suspend public health and safety statutes and regulations related to
zoning, transportation, or other matters in order to assist with temporary housing, for
a maximum period of 60 days. Political subdivisions may lease or purchase temporary
housing sites for the needs of disaster victims (Tex. Gov’t Code §418.020).
The governor is authorized to apply to the federal government for a loan, and to
disburse the proceeds of the loan to a unit of local government, if the political
subdivision has suffered tax or revenue losses due to a disaster and needs financial
assistance to perform governmental functions. The amount of the loan cannot exceed
25% of the annual operating budget of the locality for the fiscal year when the disaster
occurs. The governor may recommend the cancellation of all or part of the repayment
for three fiscal years after the disaster if revenue is insufficient to meet operating
expenses (Tex. Gov’t Code §418.021).
The governor may accept federal grants to provide financial assistance to
individuals and families so they may meet disaster-related expenses and is authorized
to agree to provide a 25% state match to receive assistance. The Department of
Human Services or another other state agency may be designated to provide financial
aid (Tex. Gov’t Code §418.022).
If the governor or the President issues a disaster declaration, the governor,
working through the emergency management council, may order that debris which
threatens public health and safety be cleared from public or private property. The
governor may accept federal funds to provide grants to units of local government for
the removal of debris or wreckage from public or private land and water. Except
where a delay presents risks to public health and safety, workers must obtain
authorization for debris removal, and the state must receive indemnification for
removal of debris from private property. During such activities state employees are
not liable for death or injury to persons or damage to property (Tex. Gov’t Code
Private aviators conducting search and rescue functions may be reimbursed for
actual operation costs (Tex. Gov’t Code §418.046); DEM is authorized to provide
financial assistance to the Texas wing of the civil air patrol for disaster-related
activities, training and exercises (Tex. Gov’t Code §418.0461).
Businesses are not subject to ad valorem taxes if they: (1) provide their own fire
prevention and fire control services; (2) operate equipment at least equivalent to rural
fire prevention districts; or (3) provide emergency services (emergency response,
rescue, disaster planning) as recognized by specified state entities and provide
equipment, training and facilities to handle emergencies and protect the business and
neighbors. They are not exempt, however, from sales and use taxes (Tex. Health &
Safety Code §§775.032, 776.032).
The state comptroller may grant an extension, for a maximum period of 90 days,
for a victim of a natural disaster to file a tax return or to pay the tax due. Persons must
request an extension, and interest accrues after the 91st day (Tex. Tax. Code
The Emergency Management Assistance Compact is codified (Tex. Health &
Safety Code §778.001).
The South Central Interstate Forest Fire Protection Compact is codified (Tex.
Education Code §88.116).
Political subdivisions in the state may render aid to other subdivisions under
mutual aid agreements (Tex. Gov’t Code §418.107 (c)).
DEM is to encourage local governments to participate in interjurisdictional
arrangements and determine whether there are adequate provisions for local and
interjurisdictional mutual aid. DEM may require that mutual aid agreements be
developed if sufficient resources exist. Assistance may be provided by local
governments if it is consistent with mutual aid agreements and the policies of the local
governing body (Tex. Gov’t Code §418.109).
DEM must develop a statewide mutual aid program for fire emergencies (Tex.
Gov’t Code §418.110).
Local governments may provide emergency assistance to other local
governments, whether or not previously agreed on or contracted to, if a state of civil
emergency exists and the local governments authorize the assistance (Tex. Gov’t Code
A county or municipality may authorize the establishment of a mutual aid law
enforcement task force, or provide law enforcement mutual aid, but only when local
officials declare a state of civil emergency or because of a disaster or threat of
concealed explosives (Tex. Local Gov’t Code §362.002).
A unit of local government may provide emergency assistance to another local
government, whether or not previously agreed on or contracted to, if a state of civil
emergency exists and the governing body authorizes the assistance by resolution (Tex.
Gov’t Code §791.027).
A licensed professional in another state may render aid in Texas during an
emergency or disaster (Tex. Gov’t Code §418.171).
The governor may recommend that political subdivisions form interjurisdictional
emergency management programs (Tex. Gov’t Code §418.104).
DEM may hire temporary employees using state, federal or disaster contingency
funds. Merit system provisions do not apply (Tex. Gov’t Code §418.045).
The statute established the Disaster Emergency Funding Board, comprised of the
governor, lieutenant governor, the commissioners of insurance and human services,
and the director of DEM. The governor, with the concurrence of the board, may make
funds available to state and local agencies from the disaster contingency fund (Tex.
Gov’t Code §§418.072, 418.073).
The governor or the presiding officer of a political subdivision may accept and
dispense gifts, grants, loans of supplies, equipment, or funds from the federal
government or other public or private agencies or individuals to be used by the state
or political subdivisions for disaster or emergency services. Funds received by the
state are to be deposited in special accounts and disbursed by the comptroller on the
order of the governor. Officials are not required to obtain bids to purchase equipment,
supplies, or commodities (Tex. Gov’t Code §418.074).
The governor, board of regents of Texas A&M University, or the director of the
State Forest Service may accept gifts, grants, federal grants and assistance for deposit
in the statewide fire contingency account. Private gifts, grants and assistance, and
other funds may be used to: pay direct costs of using state forest service equipment
and personnel to support local firefighting to suppress fires; pay direct costs of local
firefighters responding to wildfire emergencies; and pay the expenses of the state
forest service when fires are fought under compact agreements or with the assistance
of federal resources. Funds cannot be transferred except for these purposes. Excesses
of over $1 million in the account must be transferred to the general revenue fund on
August 31 each year (Tex. Education Code §88.117).
Political subdivisions are authorized to make appropriations for emergency
management services (Tex. Gov’t Code §418.107).
The Texas Department of Health is authorized to collect annual fees from
operators of nuclear reactors. The fee cannot exceed the actual expenses for
emergency planning (Tex. Health & Safety Code §401.302).
A local fire control, prevention and emergency medical services district may
finance all program costs through the issuance of bonds (Tex. Local Gov’t Code
If a municipal governing body certifies that the area needs redevelopment or
rehabilitation because of a flood, fire, hurricane, earthquake, storm, or other
catastrophe, and the governor has certified a need for federal disaster assistance, then
the governing body may approve urban renewal plan and projects (Tex. Local Gov’t
The governing body of a tax unit in an area declared a natural disaster may
authorize the reappraisal of all property damaged by disaster. Taxes are to be prorated
in the year a disaster occurred (Tex. Tax Code §23.02).
The governor is required to consider steps to mitigate disasters. State agencies
with specified duties must, as directed, study mitigation efforts. The governor must
make recommendations to the legislature, local governments, and public and private
entities about mitigation measures (Tex. Gov’t Code §418.121).
The Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission and other state agencies
must keep land use and construction standards under continuing study and identify
high risk areas (Tex. Gov’t Code §418.122).
DEM must recommend changes to regulations or legislative action related to
building standards, land use controls, and zoning regulations to mitigate the impact
of potential disaster. Such recommendations must be reviewed by the governor and
acted upon (Tex. Gov’t Code §418.123).
The governor may suspend a standard found deficient if it is inadequate to protect
the public health and safety, and is to replace it with a new standard that is effective
until the legislature rejects or the governor amends the regulation. The replacement
standard is subject to judicial review but not subject to temporary stay (Tex. Gov’t
State agencies may buy property damage insurance to qualify for federal disaster
assistance funds, and are authorized to petition the disaster emergency funding board
to purchase insurance on the agencies’ behalf. The board is authorized to spend funds
for this purpose (Tex. Gov’t Code §418.172).
The Flood Control and Insurance Act encourages participation in the National
Flood Insurance Program (Tex. Water Code §16.311 et seq.)
See also discussions under “Entities with key responsibilities,” above.
Continuity of Government Operations
The Texas Emergency Interim Legislative Succession Act requires that the
executive director of the Texas Employees’ Retirement System submit a list of the
names of persons who meet specified criteria in each legislative district to serve as
emergency interim successors. The statute provides for backup designation processes.
Emergency interim successors exercise powers and assume duties but cannot
designate their own emergency interim successors. Quorum requirements are
suspended in the event of an attack, but the same proportion of those present and
voting is required to pass legislation (Tex. Gov’t Code §304.001 et seq.).
The legislature shall have the power and duty to ensure prompt and temporary
succession to the powers and duties of public offices whether filled by election or
appointment, if the incumbents are unavailable to carry out powers and duties. During
an emergency or threat of enemy attack, the legislature may suspend procedural rules
related to legislative business, quorum, the three-day requirement for reading bills,
committee referral of bills, or effective date of laws. When an emergency or attack
threat exists, the governor (after discussions with the lieutenant governor and the
speaker of the House) may suspend the requirement to hold the legislative session in
Austin. The governor is to determine the place where the legislature will hold
sessions and provide notification, taking appropriate security precautions in releasing
the information. The governor must issue a proclamation declaring a period of
emergency. Suspension of normal legislative procedures is required for a maximum
period of two years to assure continuity of government; the House and Senate must
concur by a majority of members present and pass a resolution. The suspension may
be renewed if the governor issues a new proclamation and the House and Senate
concur (Tex. Const. Art. III §62).
A state employee engaged in public safety emergency response activity may be
reimbursed for compensatory time at the regular rate of pay if the employer
determines that using compensatory time would disrupt critical functions (Tex. Gov’t
Bank officers may close operations during an emergency if they determine that
the emergency has affected the bank, even if the state banking commissioner has not
issued emergency proclamation. Bank officers are to decide when the emergency is
over, to a maximum of three days without the commissioner’s approval (Tex. Finance
Code §37.002). The banking commissioner is to decide when an emergency exists in
all or part of the state, and may issue a proclamation for banks to close all or part of
their offices. Banks are to remain closed until the commissioner proclaims emergency
has ended (Tex. Finance Code §37.003).
A safe deposit company may relocate safe deposit boxes or open boxes to
relocate them to another location if security is threatened or destroyed by a natural
disaster. Two employees must open each box and inventory its contents (Tex. Finance
Code §59.108). Credit unions may relocate safe deposit boxes during an emergency,
and must provide notice to box holders of the new location within 90 days (Tex.
Finance Code §125.507).
Savings and loan association officers may decide not to open offices or close
offices because of an emergency. Offices are to remain closed until officers determine
the emergency has ended, for a maximum period of two days (Tex. Finance Code
Savings banks may be closed for emergencies, but require the commissioner’s
approval to remain closed more than 48 hours (Tex. Finance Code §93.011).
The emergency management statute does not limit the governor’s emergency
management authority, nor generally allow interference with labor disputes or the
dissemination of news, but such activities cannot interfere with the jurisdiction of the
police, firefighters, or armed forces or modify governor’s martial law authority (Tex.
Gov’t Code §418.003).
Individuals must manage their own affairs and property to assist and not detract
from efforts to respond to an emergency (Tex. Gov’t §418.151).
Compensation is to be provided for services obtained and property used, only as
specified (Tex. Gov’t Code §418.152). Compensation must be filed with DEM (Tex.
Gov’t Code §418.153). Compensation cannot be provided for cutting timber related
to firebreaks or water releases related to flooding (Tex. Gov’t Code §418.154).
Members of the state emergency management council or a local emergency
planning committee are not liable for civil damages for performance of their official
duties (Tex. Gov’t Code §418.174).
Emergency management planning information gathered about physically or
mentally disabled, or medically fragile persons, is confidential (Tex. Gov’t Code
The state electronic government project management office must direct and
facilitate electronic government projects, including the West Texas Disaster Recovery
and Operations Center, which is to be used to consolidate data operations and
recovery information (Tex. Gov’t Code §2055.059).
A state employee called to active duty in the military reserves during a national
emergency is entitled to an unpaid leave of absence and retains vacation, sick leave,
and seniority benefits (Tex. Gov’t Code §661.904).
A state employee who is volunteer firefighter or EMS volunteer is allowed a
leave of absence to attend training sessions, for a maximum period of five days per
year. State agencies may provide leave with pay to such employees who respond to
fire or medical situations if they have established policies for granting leave (Tex.
Gov’t Code §661.905).
A state employee who is an American Red Cross disaster services volunteer is
entitled to 10 days of leave per year without a loss of salary, vacation, or sick leave,
with the approval of the governor. A maximum of 350 state employees may be
excused on Red Cross leave at any one time during a fiscal year. DEM must
coordinate the list of eligible employees, and the American Red Cross must report to
the Legislative Budget Board within 60 days about the reason for such a request (Tex.
Gov’t Code §661.907).
State agencies may reimburse employees’ travel expenses for state business if
they are unable to conduct business because of a natural disaster and would have been
reimbursed had the business been conducted (Tex. Gov’t Code §660.009).
Persons not otherwise covered by workers’ compensation who volunteer during
a disaster or emergency response training under the direction of state officers or
employees are entitled to medical benefits for injuries sustained in the course of
providing services, as specified (Tex. Labor Code §501.026).
Members of state military forces who respond to natural and manmade disasters
may be offered tuition assistance in order to encourage membership, improve the
educational level and diversity composition of forces, and enhance the workforce.
Eligibility for tuition assistance grants is determined by the adjutant general, based on
the number of eligible people, the funds available and the needs of the military forces.
The number of grants is limited, as specified, unless there is a compelling need. The
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board must be consulted, determines if funds
are available, and may reduce awards, pursuant to the Texas Education Code §54.2155
(Tex. Gov’t Code §431.090).
Table 1. Key Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Terms Defined in Texas Statutes, with Citations
AttackTex. Gov’t Code §304.002(1)
DisasterTex. Gov’t Code §418.004 (1);Tex.
Labor Code §501.026 (a)
DistrictTex. Local Gov’t Code §344.002
EmergencyTex. Finance Code §§37.001,
Interjurisdictional agencyTex. Gov’t Code §418.004 (4)
Local emergency planning committeeTex. Health & Safety Code §§506.004
(17), 507.004 (17)
National Flood Insurance ActTex. Water Code §16.313 (2)
Organized volunteer groupTex. Gov’t §418.004 (5)
Political subdivisionTex. Gov’t §418.004 (6), Tex. Water
Code §16.313 (1)
State emergency response commissionTex. Health & Safety §§506.004 (22),
Temporary housingTex. Gov’t §418.020 (7)
For Further Research
The citations noted above and other elements of the state code for Texas may be
searched at: [http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/statutes/statutes.html].