Emergency Management

Harris County never stops preparing for the next big emergency. One of County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s first accomplishments in office was to commission an independent review of the County’s emergency response systems to continuously improve, identify, and fill in the gaps when it comes to responding to future disasters. In response to this review, Judge Hidalgo has directed agencies to implement numerous improvements, including improving air monitoring and information sharing and working with first responder teams from across the region to prepare for and plan for the worst.

Key Accomplishments

  • Launched a revamped ReadyHarris.org, the County’s flagship tool to inform residents on what to do before, during, and after disasters. The new site now includes user-friendly information on how residents can prepare for events and real-time alerts and information - like a live air monitoring map when needed - on what is happening to protect residents.
  • Commissioned an independent review of our emergency response systems to continuously improve, identify and fill gaps when it comes to responding to future disasters. In response to this review, Judge Hidalgo has directed agencies to implement improvements, including improved air monitoring and information sharing.
  • Led successful response to Tropical Storm Imelda. The County stood up Local Recovery Centers 25 days before Federal disaster assistance center arrived to provide key resources for survivors. Judge Hidalgo also lead the charge to secure Federal recovery dollars from FEMA. To date, FEMA has provided over $8 million for Imelda survivors. Additionally, Judge Hidalgo secured access to low-interest federal disaster loans for the survivors of the Kingwood floods in May by working in partnership with Fort Bend County, the State of Texas, and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
  • Launched the Imelda Assistance Fund in partnership with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. To date, the fund has raised over $500,000 in donations and commitments to provide additional resources for survivors.
  • Building up our Disaster Response Coordination Team with the addition of an Operations Section Chief, a Senior Advisor for Public Safety and Emergency Management, a second industry liaison, and a social media specialist. These additions allow for better coordination with industry and County departments as well as improved communication with the public during incidents.
  • Established a $30 million Small Business Recovery Fund (SBRF) Program to assist struggling small businesses who have been unable to obtain financial assistance from other COVID-19 relief programs. The program will provide eligible businesses a grant of up to $25,000 to help cover payroll costs, rent, accounts payable, and other operating expenses. SBRF targets businesses with 30 or fewer employees and is designed to assist the most vulnerable Harris County small- and micro-enterprises impacted by the pandemic with mounting financial burdens. The SBRF is in addition to a $10 million fund Harris County established in April 2020 to provide grants for small businesses.
  • Established the COVID-19 Emergency Direct Assistance Program to provide one-time payments of $1,200 to families struggling with financial hardship related to COVID-19. Harris County and partner Catholic Charities completed a disbursement of $61.4 million to a total of 51,167 eligible households. In June 2021, Harris County allocated an additional $30 million to establish the Harris County Recovery Assistance (HCRA) relief fund to provide $1,500 one-time payments to 20,000 households. This is in addition to the COVID-19 Relief Fund established in April 2020 to provide much-needed relief to Harris County residents hardest hit financially by the pandemic, and ineligible or unable to wait for other assistance. The fund distributed $40 million in $1,200 and $1,500 grants to 18,659 applicants.
  • Established the COVID-19 Housing Legal Services Initiative to provide legal assistance for families at risk of eviction due to financial hardships brought on by COVID-19. Expanded the fund in March 2023  with $4 million for legal aid that will fund support for approximately 5,010 eligible cases total with approximately 90% receiving full representation and the remaining receiving brief services.
  • Established the Houston-Harris County Emergency Rental Assistance Program with the City of Houston to provide our hardest-hit residents with small grants to pay rent. As of November 4, 2021, the fund has acquired over $244 million in funding and provided assistance to 62,761 families.
    • Established an exciting research initiative with Princeton University’s Eviction Lab to inform academic research and conversations to advance public understanding of the eviction crisis.
  • Established the $8 million Eviction Intervention Program to divert eviction cases out of court, helping families avoid imminent homelessness and landlords recover overdue rent during the pandemic.
  • Established a $2.17 million COVID-19 Domestic Violence Assistance fund to support survivors of domestic violence and help in providing an array of services including childcare, food, transportation, and housing during the pandemic. In 2022, added an additional $4.17 million in funding and appointed the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council (HCDVCC) to administer the Fund and oversee funding to approximately 15 community-based organizations across the county that work with domestic violence survivors and their families. The funds can be used for any assistance to help survivors leave abusive situations or stabilize and build a new life after leaving. 
  • Established the $4.7 million COVID-19 Childcare Assistance Program to provide some relief to parents during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program provided funding for virtual learning, after school care, early childhood learning, and early childhood care.
  • Fighting food insecurity caused by the pandemic by pledging over $15.8 million dollars as well as county manpower to the Houston Food Bank, which provided for the purchase and distribution of 47.5 million meals for Harris County families in need.
  • Created a Roadmap to Reopen Schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. The research-based roadmap provided local school districts with data-based milestones to meet and safety guidelines to follow for realistic, responsible, safe, and sustainable reopening of schools.
  • Contributed $18 million in federal funds to the COVID Community-wide Housing Plan for local government and organizations to collaboratively address homelessness in the time of COVID-19. The contribution marks the single largest investment to address homelessness in Harris County history and will help provide housing services for 5,000 people.
  • Allocated $5.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Emergency Housing Vouchers to expand support services including move-in support, mental health and substance abuse services, and domestic violence-related services to assist people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness obtain and keep permanent housing.
  • Established the Harris County Digital Access Program to provide families with computer devices and hotspots for virtual schooling. The program designates over $42 million in Federal Cares Act dollars to provide 100,455 WI-FI hotspots and 227,605 devices to families in need.
  • Established the Greater Houston 2021 Winter Storm Relief Fund to assist our region’s most vulnerable neighbors in their recovery. The fund raised more than $15 million in donations that has been distributed to non-profit organizations that support vulnerable families and individuals in critical need of home repairs due to busted pipes, water damage, and prolonged power loss during the recent freezing temperatures.
  • Created a Child Tax Credit engagement program in partnership with BakerRipley to conduct vital outreach to communities in need to ensure they file their taxes to claim the 2020 - 2021 elevated American Rescue Plan Child Tax Credit benefit.
  • Opened NRG Park Vaccination Center to administer COVID-19 vaccines to the public on demand.
  • Implemented $100 cash card incentive program to encourage Harris County residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19. An estimated 39,700 additional first doses were administered to residents of Harris County - above and beyond the vaccinations that would have been administered without the program - as a direct result of this incentive program.
  • Launched the HCPH Vaccine Scholarship Program to award 10 scholarships of $5,000 each to students who have been vaccinated through HCPH.
  • Provided $30 million for surge nursing staff during the Delta outbreak and $41 million for surge nursing staff during the Omicron outbreak in our County’s hospital systems, to ensure that hospital capacity was not overwhelmed and prevent hospitals from having to ration care during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Launched the Stay Smart, Do Your Part Campaign to share correct, life-saving information on COVID-19. The campaign recruits community messengers to share evidence-based information to ensure our communities – particularly vulnerable communities – feel empowered to act.
  • Created the COVID-19 Threat Level System to provide guidance and information to community residents about evolving COVID-19 threat levels.

Visit ReadyHarris.org


Visit ReadyHarris.org to find the latest information about how to sign up for alerts, important updates about ongoing emergencies, and preparedness tips for you and your community.