Texas State Government’s Response to the Winter Freeze of 2021
Various disasters constantly occur in the world, including extreme temperature changes. On February 11, 2021, Texas began a record drop in temperature, leading to the shutdown of major power plants controlled by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) (Maxouris). This situation has led to widespread consequences affecting a large population. Against the backdrop of the unfolding fight against COVID-19, these conditions turned out to be deadly for many people.
The state government had to respond as soon as possible to the situation. The Disaster Declaration was established, and then federal support was requested. However, the existing disaster prevention and mitigation system in Texas is not efficient enough and requires not only technical but also legal reforms. In particular, the government needs to ensure better communication between government agencies and non-profit organizations to increase the number of resources available.
The first response to the disaster was the Disaster Declaration signed by the Governor of Texas. The document was adopted on February 12, 2021, and implied the expansion of the activities of the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to use all available resources (“Governor Abbott Issues”). In particular, the declaration declares a “state of disaster in all 254 counties based on the existence of such threat” (Governor Greg Abbot 1). In addition to expanding powers in the use of resources, the Governor approved the suspension of any authorities that impede or slow down the elimination of the consequences of the disaster. Thus, the Disaster Declaration made it possible to significantly speed up the elimination of the negative impact of the winter freeze and speed up the implementation of the necessary legal procedures.
The next day, the situation with extreme weather conditions continued to deteriorate, requiring amendments. On February 13, the Governor authorized the use of additional resources to help communities and also requested a Federal Disaster Declaration from the White House (“Governor Abbott Provides”). The Governor also noted that eliminating the consequences of the disaster needs a collective effort. As part of the Disaster Declaration, TDEM’s efforts were insufficient due to the large number affected by the emergency.
A subsequent request for federal assistance indicates that the Division was unable to meet the needs of the population. In accordance with the adopted TDEM declaration, complete freedom was given to utilize the available resources and adopt the necessary procedures. In this situation, the state government could not achieve more due to the large number of affected people and the limited time frame. These factors were also supported by ongoing extreme weather conditions for which TDEM might not have been prepared and lacked sufficient resources. In a normal situation, the silt of this body should not be expanded, only for the duration of emergencies, which was done.
Major Disaster Declaration
Despite a timely and comprehensive response, Tezas’ resources were insufficient to minimize the impact of the disaster. On February 14, President Biden confirmed the dire consequences of the extreme frost in Texas and ordered federal aid to the state (“President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Approves Texas Emergency Declaration”). As part of this initiative, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was authorized to provide the necessary assistance to residents of the state to cope with the difficulties caused by the emergency situation. The agency was empowered under the Title V of the Stafford Act to protect the health, property, and safety of the public (“President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Approves Texas Emergency Declaration”). In particular, FEMA is allowed to use any available resources to minimize the impact of a disaster.
However, these measures also appeared to be insufficient to eliminate all the consequences of the emergency situation. Therefore, the Governor of Texas also “requested a major disaster declaration” (“FEMA Responds”). On February 19, 2021, President Biden approved the request and signed a declaration providing the state with additional federal assistance to rebuild damaged areas (“President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Approves Texas Disaster Declaration”). The assistance included the provision of grants to affected individuals and business owners, as well as state, local governments, and non-profit organizations.
As part of the initiative, TDEM joined FEMA, which now played a leading role in the disaster mitigation process. Texas was now in charge of supporting the effort and providing information to the federal agency (“Governor Abbott, TDEM Request”). With the support of FEMA, the state government was finally able to meet the needs of the population, since two days after the adoption of the declaration, the disaster was ended (“Texas Severe Winter Storms”).
In this case, FEMA has almost unlimited opportunities to support the population of the state within the framework of the available resources. Federal funding has also allowed for increased government collaboration with self-government forces. FEMA’s authority extends to all states in the United States, and they are working to deal with the consequences of emergencies across the country. Their activities are quite effective, as the experience of Texas has shown, so there is no need to expand their powers further.
After addressing the immediate consequences of the emergency, the state government began to consider long-term prevention measures. TDEM later announced the call for applications for the “Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) related to FEMA-DR-4586 (Severe Winter Storms)” (“Texas Winter Storm DR 4586”). This program seeks to combine the efforts of government agencies, local governments, community members, and non-profit organizations to create projects aimed at mitigating the effects of the disaster. This initiative underlines that the Governor and TDEM plan to involve more participants in preventing similar incidents in the future.
The TDEM Hazard Mitigation Unit was also created as part of the plans to mitigate the consequences of disasters. This service is “focused on reducing future disaster losses in Texas through the implementation of a variety of risk-reduction strategies” (“Hazard Mitigation Grants”).
This unit brings together technical and planning professionals to implement various mitigation strategies. This initiative is also aimed at long-term prevention of affecting the population of Texas from the consequences of various disasters. It is still difficult to assess the effectiveness of this measure, but since the work is conducted in cooperation with FEMA, the program can have a positive financial and technical impact. This initiative will also strengthen ties with various government bodies, which will improve responsiveness in the future. Closer work with non-profits is also needed in light of the investigations of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and the Texas Public Utility Commission (Sparber). Thus, the state government needs not only to develop mitigation plans but also to establish a management system.
The measures taken by TDEM were insufficient to eliminate the consequences of the disaster. FEMA support made it possible in the shortest possible time to mitigate an emergency situation and provide assistance to the population. The future government needs to expand the Hazard Mitigation program to prepare for possible situations. Particular attention should be paid to improving communication between governing bodies and non-profit organizations to control the situation better.
FEMA Responds to Severe Winter Weather in the Southeast. The Federal Emergency Management Agency. 2021. Web.
Governor Abbott Issues Disaster Declaration, Continues To Deploy Resources As Severe Winter Weather Impacts Texas. Office of the Texas Governor. 2021. Web.
Governor Abbott, TDEM Request Addition Of 54 Counties For Major Disaster Declaration. Office of the Texas Governor. 2021. Web.
Governor Greg Abbot. Proclamation by the Governor of the State of Texas. Office of the Texas Governor. 2021. Web.
Governor Abbott Provides Update On Severe Winter Weather Impacting Texas. Office of the Texas Governor. 2021. Web.
Maxouris, Christina. Here’s How a Week of Frigid Weather and Catastrophe Unfolded in Texas. CNN. 2021. Web.
President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Approves Texas Disaster Declaration. The White House. 2021. Web.
President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Approves Texas Emergency Declaration. The White House. 2021. Web.
Sparber, Sami. At least 57 People Died in the Texas Winter Storm, Mostly from Hypothermia. The Texa Tribune. Web.
Texas Severe Winter Storms 4586-DR-TX. The Federal Emergency Management Agency. 2021. Web.
Texas Winter Storm DR 4586. The Texas Division of Emergency Management, n.d. Web.
What is Hazard Mitigation? The Texas Division of Emergency Management, n.d. Web.