Disaster Recovery Blog Series – Part 1

Disaster Recovery Blog Series – Part 1

Disaster Recovery Blog Series – Part 1:  Spotlight on DR-4332 Hurricane Harvey Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds at the annual TDEM conference

SPI attended the recent Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) annual conference in San Antonio, May 15 – May 18.  Thousands of public and private sector partners in emergency management from across the State of Texas came together in a collaborative forum to attend workshops on a variety of topics by subject matter experts, share lessons learned and exchange ideas for best practices.   Opening ceremony guest speakers Derrick Freeman, Mayor, City of Port Arthur and Patrick Rios, Mayor, City of Rockport spoke about the immediate challenges they faced during landfall of Hurricane Harvey last August. This disaster marked the longest activation the State Operations Center (SOC) has seen to date with 69 consecutive days.  

Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief, W. Nim Kidd delivers opening remarks to a standing room only audience at the 2018 TDEM conference, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio.

During Hurricane Harvey, the SOC received 81 resource requests the state could not support which were sent to federal side for assistance.  According to Ruben Alonzo, Texas Military Department Branch Director, support included activation of 21,000 troops at the peak point of disaster response with 1,000 military vehicles for a total of 16,000 ground rescue missions conducted by U.S. military personnel.  

Since the Katrina disaster in 2005 with an estimated cost of over 100 billion dollars in damages, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, now under the Department of Homeland Security umbrella of federal partners, has sought to streamline its public assistance and grant funding mechanisms over the years.  Close collaboration at the state level and implementation of new technology has enabled users to submit online grant applications and resource requests through secure online portal systems like “WebEOC”.

Earlier this year, FEMA announced that the State of Texas would administer the application process through TDEM for Hurricane Harvey DR-4332 Hazard Mitigation Program Grant funds, with a one-year post Hurricane Harvey disaster estimated amount of $1.1 billion.  Eligible sub applicants to TDEM include: State Agencies, Federally-recognized tribes, Local and regional Government organizations to include special districts, and Private nonprofit organizations (PNPs). Jurisdictions must have a FEMA approved Hazard Mitigation Plan at the time of application.  HMGP is a mitigation grant with a single mission to “provide financial assistance to eligible applicants to prevent or reduce future losses to lives and property through identification and funding of cost-effective mitigation measures and to minimize the costs of future disaster response and recovery.”  

At the conference SPI attended a workshop specific to the HMGP program, “Show Me the Money: Developing a Quality Mitigation Grant Application”, presented by David Jackson, State Hazard Mitigation Officer.  This is the first time the State and federal agency side will work in tandem to complete the application review process. At the workshop, FEMA Lead Mitigation Specialist, Jeffrey Brewer, who reviews applications alongside TDEM also shared challenges he has seen with applicants in the past including applicants not providing enough detail in the budget sections.  “The most important information up front for FEMA to have,” according to Brewer, “is to be able to know if the funds being requested would really fall under another program.” Focusing on ensuring the Benefit Cost Analysis (BCA) is performed correctly and yields a positive result for the program is also a critical piece of the application process. According to several members of the TDEM mitigation team, drainage projects will be given first priority in mitigation funding awards.  

SPI has an established record of working with funding agencies after a major disaster in Texas.  After Hurricanes Rita (2005) and Ike (2008), clients looked to SPI to pursue funding solutions for critical infrastructure that failed during the storms.  SPI worked with agencies that deliver funding opportunities such as FEMA, TDA and GLO. Successful disaster recovery projects are achieved through sound engineering practices, cost effective design, and great communication between SPI, the client, and the funding agency.   SPI can also advise clients how to properly document in-kind services provided by municipalities such as debris removal; clearing and grading of ditches, channels and drainage structures; streets, storm sewer, utilities and other infrastructure repair.  This allows municipalities to receive fair reimbursement from agencies such as FEMA.

SPI is working hard to keep its clients at the forefront of available funding options for the current DR-4332 HMGP funds.  SPI personnel are involved in both Southeast Texas and in the Houston area.

SPI continues to attend workshops associated with disaster recovery funding and has developed strong relationships with TDEM and FEMA program managers.  We are here to help you navigate this process to completion and success. For more information regarding the DR-4332 HMGP program in the Houston/Galveston region please contact: Lisa Chambers at lchambers@spi-eng.com.  For more information in the Beaumont/East Texas region, please contact Steve Jordan, P.E., at sjordan@spi-eng.com.