Disaster Readiness and the Finance Officer

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Planning for a disaster is no easy task. Calamity, man-made or natural, may strike at any time, threatening public safety or property, and recovery can be difficult and costly. The City of Houston, Texas, understands the need for disaster readiness; as recently as September 2008, Hurricane Ike struck the Gulf Coast, causing devastating destruction. The challenges the city faced would have been even greater if its emergency operations plan hadn’t specified the roles and responsibilities the Department of Finance should play in an emergency.

Understanding the potential financial impact of a disaster, the City of Houston proactively incorporated the Department of Finance into its emergency operations plan and spelled out the four phases of its emergency management process: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery:

  1. Mitigation. The finance team actively participates in the disaster mitigation process by allocating financial resources such as hazard mitigation grants to reduce the risk of identified hazards. 
  2. Preparedness. The team conducts annual disaster workshops for all city departments to review city policies and guidelines. 
  3. Response. Preparing city staff and the community at large before an emergency takes place makes it easier for the city to coordinate response when a disaster occurs. The Houston Finance Department is also authorized to release emergency funds, relax procurement standards for 72 hours, and ensure that emergency responders have the resources they need. 
  4. Recovery. Because recovery can be a lengthy and costly process, the city manages its resources efficiently and tracks costs for reimbursement that will help return it to pre-disaster conditions. 

Through clearly defined and designated roles, the City of Houston Finance Department plays a key part in ensuring that the city mitigates its risks, is prepared, can effectively respond and quickly recover when disaster strikes.

For more information on the City of Houston, click here.

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