Austin, TX - TMLIRP


Preparing for Hurricane Season: City Continuity Plan

August 25, 2022 Preparedness, Hurricane

As schools get back in session it’s been a quiet 2022 hurricane season, with just 3 named storms so far compared to 8 at this time a year ago, but Gulf Coast weather veterans know this could, literally, be the calm before the storm.

“It has been nearly two months since Tropical Storm Colin came and went during the first weekend in July. Since then, environmental conditions over much of the basin this summer have been detrimental to the formation of organized tropical threats,” reported AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski on Aug. 24, 2022. “However, as the heart of hurricane season approaches, there are signs that tropical activity from the coast of Africa to the Caribbean could steadily rise.”

No Named August Storms a Rarity, but Threats Loom

Just because there has not been an August named storm, does not mean that jurisdictions across Texas can let their guard down.

AccuWeather reports that there have been just four years with no named storms in August since the last 1920s, but three of those four years had damaging and deadly hurricanes after Sept. 1.

“AccuWeather meteorologists continue to warn that despite the seemingly quiet nature of the Atlantic hurricane season thus far, conditions can change quickly. It takes only one powerful hurricane or a tropical storm packing torrential rain to bring significant risk to lives and property,” wrote Sosnowski.

To protect those lives and property, the Texas Municipal League Intergovernmental Risk Pool (TMLIRP) reminds local governments that now is the time to be prepared and a continuity plan in place.

Hurricane Ready = Planning + Response + Recovery

Much of the coverage regarding hurricanes and other extreme weather naturally centers around local response and recovery, but prior planning to any events cannot be overlooked.

TMLIRP says that there are three elements to what municipalities should focus on prior to any loss from hurricanes:

  • Know Your Risk

  • Understand Your Insurance

  • Update Your Plan to Recover including Your COOP (Continuity of Operations Plan)

“Step one in carrying out risk assessments is to identify possible hazards,” says TMLIRP. “The risk should be assessed based on the severity of damage or harm and the likelihood of frequency of the damage occurring.”

A checklist of prior planning to storms might include:

  • Availability of backup generators and fuel supplies

  • Availability of other emergency supplies and protective measures

  • Installation of redundant communication systems

  • Involvement of community-wide preparation, awareness, resilience, and sustainability, with a focus on at-risk populations

  • Investment in continuing education, training, and resources for response and recovery

  • Predetermined “ride-out teams” to be on hand for damage assessments as well as emergency and stabilization vendors for response

As far as insurance, municipalities not only need to understand their specific coverages, policies, and deductibles, but they also must be able to differentiate between different providers including TMLIRP, National Flood Insurance Program, Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, and FEMA (in cases of a declared state of emergency).

Importance of Your COOP: Continuity of Operations Plan

While it’s impossible to plan for every scenario, it is imperative that cities and municipalities have an updated continuity of operation plan (COOP) in place prior to extreme weather events.

TMLIRP says that the old saying “organizations that fail to plan … fail!” is true, and that consequences of not having a COOP can be:

  • Confusion, conflict, and avoidable delays, along with associated increased costs

  • Operational components and essential activities will go offline

  • Staff and public will experience frustration, negative moral and fatigue

  • Recovery funding (from insurance and/or FEMA) could be jeopardized

  • Official and administrators will suffer reputational risk and negative impact from the resulting PR nightmare

Don’t Let the Chickens “Fly the Coop”: Where to Start

The TMLIRP recommends the following important steps to have in your COOP:

  • Maintain an Updated Inventory of all Property/Assets: Departments should be required to provide an annual updated inventory list, including accurate replacement cost valuation.
  • Identification of Critical Assets and Locations: Your COOP should prioritize essential functions and back-up options for each department including:

o   Identification and location of critical buildings, structures, and infrastructure to maintain continuity of operations and services


o   Temporary power generation and support in the even the local power grid fails


o   Redundant and alternative methods of communication for when primary communication channels are down


o   Alternate workspace and/or locations


o   Temporary rental structures and equipment


o   Security and protective measures


o   Office and personnel “pack-out” and relocation steps


o   Notification and posted signage

  • Budget for the Cost of Recovery: Disaster response comes with a price tag, and you need to budget for extra expenses (and resulting income loss) that come with maintaining continuity of operations in an emergency, including:

o   Additional payroll expense (including associated overtime and temporary hires)


o   Recovery costs and/or vendor retainer fees


o   Office and personnel relocation expenses


o   Insurance deductibles

  • Identify Operational Needs for Departments: Your COOP should cover as many options as possible from debris removal contractors to security fencing to temporary roofing systems and HVAC to portable buildings and equipment. Having a grasp on available resources will save valuable time when an emergency occurs.

What FEMA Says About Continuity of Operations Plans

FEMA says that the basic purpose of any COOP should be to ensure the primary mission essential functions continue to be performed during not just hurricanes but a wide range of emergencies, including localized acts of nature, accidents, and technological or attack-related emergencies.

FEMA identifies the elements of a viable continuity plan include:

  • Essential functions: Critical activities performed by organizations, especially after a disruption of normal services.

  • Orders of succession: Provisions for the assumption of senior offices during emergencies in the event officials are unavailable to execute their legal duties.

  • Delegations of authority: ID, by position, the authorities for making policy determinations and decisions at HQ, field levels, and all organizational locations.

  • Continuity facilities: Locations, other than primary facilities, used to carry out essential functions in a continuity event.
  • Continuity communications: Communications that provide the capability to perform essential functions, in conjunction with other agencies, under all conditions.

  • Vital records management: ID, protection and ready availability of electronic and hard copy documents, references, records, information systems, data management software, and equipment needed to support essential functions.

  • Human capital: Emergency employees and other special categories of employees who will be activated in a continuity event.

  • Tests, training, and exercises: Measures to ensure the continuity plan can achieve its mission.

  • Devolution of control and direction: Capability to transfer statutory authority and responsibility for essential functions from an organization’s primary staff and facilities to other staff and facilities.

  • Reconstitution: Process for surviving and/or replacement personnel to resume normal operations.

FEMA says the four phases of continuity of operations activation include:

  1. Readiness and Preparedness

  2. Activation and Relocation

  3. Continuity Operations

  4. Reconstitution

“COOP programs and planning ensure the most critical government functions continue to be available to Texas citizens under any conditions,” says the Texas State of Office Risk Management. “Recent worldwide and Texas emergencies reinforced the need for continuity of operations and brought greater attention to the importance of being prepared.”

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