New Recovery Resources in Houston, TX

Introducing guest blogger, Jonathan Wiggins, to describe the efforts underway in Houston, TX. He is on staff at the City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security.

New Recovery Planning Resources

The Houston Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) region has experienced a number of flooding incidents in the past several years, Hurricane Harvey having had the largest impact across the five-county region. As a result, the Regional Recovery Work Group stood up in 2016 to develop resources to help raise the recovery preparedness posture of communities within the region.

The Work Group’s premier product is a pre-disaster recovery (PDRP) template, which was completed in January 2019. The PDRP is a high-level playbook meant to walk a community through a successful recovery. If the person assigned to lead recovery efforts has no prior recovery experience, the plan includes an over of recovery, including the three phases and links to the six Recovery Support Functions (RSF). It suggests several strategies for each phase of recovery and assigns responsibility of recovery tasks to different agencies and organizations. In addition, we are currently working on annexes to the template to address each RSF more specifically.

Another product the Work Group is developing is an exercise package. It can function as a workshop for communities that don’t currently have a PDRP or as a tabletop exercise to validate a community’s PDRP. While it complements the PDRP template, a community can use it to test any existing recovery plan. The exercise is meant to bring recovery-oriented agencies and organizations together to help them better understand where they and the other partners in the room fit in to the recovery scheme. A situation manual is currently available, and the Work Group will be developing other collateral, such as email announcement text, presentation templates, and a partially developed after-action report.

The intent with both the PDRP template and the exercise package is to provide communities with a 90% solution. These resources are mostly complete, but there will be blanks for the communities to fill in. Additionally, the planning team should scrutinize the text to ensure it’s appropriate to their community. In some instances, it may be spot on. In others, it may be close but needs some modification. Some of the content may not be applicable and should be deleted. We would stress that while a lot of the work may have already been done, these efforts should still always involve a planning team.

As the Work Group develops products, they will be posted to the Houston UASI website at https://houstonuasi.com/recovery-resources. While we’re developing these resources for communities in our region, we want to be good stewards of the grant money we receive and share these products with the rest of the world. Currently only the PDRP template and the exercise situation manual have been posted, but we’re slowly working to post more content. We’re open to feedback, but more than that, we’d love to hear how other communities are using these resources. Feel free to shoot me an email at jonathan.wiggins@houstontx.gov

Flood Recovery at Univ. of Iowa

From the NYTimes, this article about recovery: How the University of Iowa Recovered From the ‘Unfathomable’ Flood That Ruined It. Two excerpts:

Working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to get the federal portion of rebuilding costs was “a challenge,” recalled Sally Mason, the president of the university during the flood and its aftermath. The complications included navigating arcane federal rules and dealing with a changing cast of officials. That the process ended up a success story is a testament to the university’s persistence, patience and the deployment of the university’s resources to address the problems.

Of all the lessons from 2008, perhaps the most important is that “mother nature’s changing on us,” *** and although the campus is better protected than ever before, “you can never feel quite comfortable about something you don’t control,” ***.As Mr. Guckert put it, “We haven’t seen our worst flood yet.”

President Worsens Conflict Over Disaster Relief Money for FL and PR

Presently, Congress is holding up disaster relief monies for several disasters.  The lengthy delay there is made worse by the President’s comments at a recent rally. From the Huff Post: Trump Pits Florida Against Puerto Rico Over Emergency Aid: ‘They Don’t Like Me’

The president told supporters at his rally that Puerto Rico received more hurricane disaster relief than states like Florida.

The Trump administration plans to provide 90% of federal emergency cleanup funds to the state of Florida to help with repair after Hurricane Michael struck last October, Trump said at his rally in Panama City Beach, Florida. Aware of complaints about a lack of disaster relief funding, the president blamed Democratic lawmakers and told his supporters, “You’re getting your money one way or the other.”

But the president was unable to announce his support for aid in Florida without once again demonizing the island of Puerto Rico, which continues to struggle after Hurricane Maria hit in 2017, causing an estimated 3,000 deaths.

Trump falsely claimed Wednesday that Puerto Rico “got $91 billion” in aid after Hurricane Maria in 2017 and complained that the island is asking for more money. He also said Puerto Rico received the largest amount of aid ever distributed, which is also false

 

DHS OIG Faults FEMA Contracting in PR

From HSToday: OIG: FEMA Wasted Resources, Time and Money in Puerto Rico Hurricane Recovery Contracting.

…the audit found that FEMA inappropriately awarded two contracts to Bronze Star, which did not meet the requirements of either contract. OIG says this deficiency delayed delivery of crucial supplies, and impeded Puerto Rican residents’ efforts to protect their homes and prevent further damage. In summary, OIG says FEMA wasted personnel resources, time, and taxpayer money by issuing, canceling, and reissuing contracts for tarps.

Note:  a direct link to the URL for the  full (26-page) report is provided at the end of the article.

The Ultimate Recovery Challenge

From Inside Climate News: Humanity Faces a Biodiversity Crisis. Climate Change Makes It Worse. People are destroying the world’s natural wealth so fast that society must change radically to meet development goals, the UN says in a landmark scientific report.

This report seems to have generated relatively little attention. Probably got drowned out in a week of endless political news.