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How to prepare your PHA for potential disasters - Part 1

Posted by James Karner on Jul 16, 2019 7:00:00 AM

PHA Disaster Preparation

Disasters often strike unexpectedly and include a wide range of events. That’s why it’s important to be prepared before a disaster hits your community. By planning for disasters before they happen, you can help ensure your PHA has adequate resources and is ready to respond should a disaster affect your area. The information presented below aims to help your PHA create proper disaster plans and procedures as well as utilize all funding and resources that may be available during and after a disaster. This is a four part series, so be on the lookout for part two coming out next week!

Assessing your risks using a risk-based planning process

Where to start

When starting your disaster plan, certain assumptions should be made. They include, but are not limited to:

  • A catastrophic incident or attack will occur with little or no warning
  • There will be cascading effects associated with the incident
  • Inter- and Intra-state, local, tribal, territorial, and insular area government mutual aid capabilities will be exhausted
  • Local government capabilities may not exist or be functional
  • Other federal agencies are executing relevant support under their own authorities

It is not likely that all these conditions will be true in a single event, but your preparation should consider all these a possibility. In doing so, you can ensure that your PHA has outlined what you will do if any of these assumptions become a reality.


The risk assessment

After creating your list of assumptions, a risk assessment should be conducted to help categorize potential events and the probability of each occurring. Risk assessments should aim to accomplish four main goals: identify hazards, profile hazards, inventory assets, and estimate losses.

When identifying hazards, it is highly important to plan based on your location, which should be a driving factor in your approach. Consideration should be given to the following:

  • Proximity to the coast
  • Potential for major weather events (winter snowstorms vs hurricanes or tornadoes)
  • Proximity to biohazard plants
  • Infrastructure vulnerabilities (levies, dams, flood control and drainage)

When profiling hazards, the focus should be on small events that might occur frequently, as well as massive regional or national events that are less likely to happen. This will help keep your PHA prepared for the more common issues that will occur and the potential of a rare or infrequent but more substantial occurrence.

When creating an inventory of assets, you should consider all buildings, material, machinery, and other such assets, doing so will help prepare you on everything that might have been lost during the disaster. Remember to account for smaller items including maintenance and janitorial supplies. Often times smaller equipment and supplies have significant cumulative value and cannot be reimbursed by insurance or disaster aid if not properly documented, inventoried, and tracked.

You will also need to estimate potential losses by considering and calculating what the expected losses will be for different events (as identified previously). This should be recorded so you’ll know ahead of time what costs you’ll be accruing during and after a disaster has occurs. Some of the resources available to PHAs include, HUD’s CDBG-DR toolkit, and other local agencies.


Assessing vulnerabilities

Vulnerabilities can be difficult to identify, but every entity has unique vulnerabilities that are necessary to prepare for. Often times the impacts of a disaster are multiplied based on vulnerabilities that were apparent and known prior to the disaster occurring. When identifying vulnerabilities, you should review the natural environment, built environment, and barriers to accessing services.

When considering natural environments, you’ll need to look at location or proximity to hazard-prone areas. These areas are coasts, the tornado alley, floodplains, seismic zones, and potential contamination sites. You’ll need to determine which of these natural environments will have an impact on your community should a disaster occur. This will help you to determine what disaster plans you’ll need to make.

Built environments may include, but are not limited to, poorly constructed buildings, inadequately maintained public infrastructure, and inaccessible housing. Some public housing may be at greater risk because of age or health of residents which may require extra resources during and after a disaster. Another key factor to look at is the density of the buildings and/or residents who reside in them. Knowing the number of people located in an area can show you where you’ll need to spend extra time planning in your disaster preparation.

In addition to the natural and built environments, barriers to accessing services should also be considered. When assessing possible barriers, you’ll need to identify the services needed and their potential to be impacted by a disaster. Having this list will show you where you should allocate your resources, as well as creating a plan for these communities in case they are affected by a disaster.

Next: Continuity plans: how planning for the future impacts the present 


Learn how NMA can help you  in disaster recovery planning


About the author

James Karner headshot

With nearly a decade of experience in the affordable housing industry, James Karner has served with Nan McKay & Associates since 2012 in various roles including quality control, finance, procurement, compliance, and as a trainer. He is currently based in NMA’s Houston office, where he actively works on several CDBG-DR projects including Harris County, Texas and Joplin, Missouri.

Topics: disaster programs, CDBG-DR, climate and disaster resilience

NMA announces opening of new office in Houston

Posted by NMA on Apr 24, 2019 12:03:12 PM

Today Nan McKay & Associates celebrated the opening of a new company office in downtown Houston. The Texas office joins the NMA team as the eighth location nationwide, with other offices currently in San Diego, California; Miami, Florida; Tallahassee, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; Frankfort, Kentucky; Georgetown, Kentucky; and New Orleans, Louisiana. The Louisiana office, located in Jefferson Parish, is the most recently opened office preceding Houston. NMA began administering the Housing Authority of Jefferson Parish (HAJP)'s housing choice voucher program last autumn.

The new Houston office will serve as a base for NMA's community development team, which is assisting Harris County with their Hurricane Harvey disaster recovery plan. Catherine Ures, NMA's vice president of professional services, has been instrumental in helping the county establish and implement a response to the Harvey storm in 2017, which inflicted $125 billion in damage in the Houston metropolitan area and Southeast Texas.

"The hardworking people at the Harris County Community Services Department have done an incredible job in getting Project Recovery off the ground, and we're so excited to be a part of this huge initiative," Ures said. “We want Harris County to be a global model for disaster recovery and resilience."

Project Recovery includes an extensive group of disaster recovery programs for which Harris County has so far been allocated $1.2 billion in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding from the federal government.

Founded in 1980, NMA has led disaster recovery programs in Missouri, Texas, Louisiana, and South Carolina. The company also administers more than 75,000 vouchers at housing authorities nationwide. With offices in across the United States, the San Diego-based, woman-owned company is a leader in program administration and community development strategies, including resilience planning. For more information, visit, or call (800) 783-3100.

Learn more about resilience planning

Topics: disaster programs, CDBG-DR, company news, disaster recovery, climate and disaster resilience

HUD publishes disaster recovery funding notice

Posted by Annie Stevenson on Aug 14, 2018 5:00:00 PM

Today in the Federal Register, HUD’s Office of Community Planning and Development (CPD) published a notice on the allocations, common application, waivers, and alternative requirements for funds allocated to address unmet needs from disasters that occurred in 2017. This $10.03 billion allocation supplements the $7.4 billion in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds previously granted in February. The funds are part of the $28 billion allocated on April 10, 2018 under the Further Additional Supplemental appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act, 2018. Specifically, the notice allocates the additional funding to Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and covers the following:

  • Allocations
  • Use of funds
  • Overview of the grant process
  • Duration of funding
  • Catalog of federal domestic assistance
  • Finding of “no significant impact”

The notice also contains an appendix detailing the methodology used in the allocation of CDBG-DR funds to the most impacted and distressed areas due to 2017 federally declared disasters. Further details can be found in the notice.

Learn more about preparing for a disaster

Topics: disaster programs, CDBG-DR, Industry News

HUD Approves Disaster Recovery Plans

Posted by Annie Stevenson on Jul 13, 2018 11:40:06 AM

In a press release this week, HUD announced that it is approving a disaster recovery plan to help the U.S. Virgin Islands recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The action plan is funded through the Community Development Block Grant–Disaster Recovery (CDBG–DR) program, where HUD allocated $243 million in November 2017. As part of the action plan, various programs have been designed to address unmet needs that the U.S. Virgin Islands have identified in housing, infrastructure, and economic development recovery. More about these programs can be found in the press release. HUD also notes that for the additional $1.621 billion in CDBG–DR funding it allocated to the U.S. Virgin Islands back in April for similar purposes, HUD will be shortly issuing requirements governing those funds, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, along with other states allocated CDBG–DR funds, will be required to submit plans addressing the use of those funds as well.

HUD recently issued a press release to announce that it has approved a $616 million disaster recovery plan to help Florida recover from Hurricane Irma. The grant is through the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program and will support the repair of damaged homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure in the state. In April, HUD allocated an additional $791 million of CDBG-DR funding to Florida for unmet need, infrastructure and mitigation purposes.

HUD also announced that it has approved a $5 billion disaster recovery plan to help Texas recover from Hurricane Harvey. The CDBG-DR funds will support long-term recovery efforts. An additional $4.726 billion was allocated in April for unmet need, infrastructure and mitigation purposes.

Learn more about preparing for a disaster

Topics: disaster programs, CDBG-DR, Industry News

HUD Awards $28 Billion in Disaster Funding

Posted by Annie Stevenson on Apr 17, 2018 4:49:37 PM

In a press release last week, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it has awarded $28 billion in funding to support long-term disaster recovery in nine U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to the press release, the grants are funded through HUD’s Community Development Block Grant–Disaster Recovery (CDBG–DR) program. They include more than $12 billion for major disasters that occurred in 2017 and nearly $16 billion to support “mitigation” activities in areas that were impacted by major presidentially declared disasters since 2015. Mitigation is broadly described as “actions taken to protect communities from the predictable damage from future events.” A complete breakdown of the awards by year, grantee, awards based on remaining 2017 unmet needs, awards for mitigation, and the totals can be found in the press release.

The PIH office has also updated its Excel spreadsheet listing PHAs that offer preferences for families displaced by disasters. Information on preference systems and any related data is provided for 680 PHAs. The list, which has been updated to show preference data as of April 13, is intended to serve as a resource for PHAs, families, and HUD staff in locating potential housing options.

PHAs that wish to supply additional information or to correct erroneous spreadsheet data may contact the disaster preference project team at

Learn more about preparing for a disaster

Topics: disaster programs, CDBG-DR, Industry News

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