114 – Emergency Management, Homeland Security Operations, & All-Hazard Plans

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I. Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to establish guidelines and requirements for agency employees when responding to critical incidents.

II. Definitions

Civil Disturbance: A civil unrest activity such as a demonstration, riot, or strike that disrupts a community and requires intervention to maintain public safety.

Command Post: A designated location where assistance is provided to the incident commander with the tasks of commanding the operation, such as: maintaining a system of communications; acquiring additional personnel and equipment; accumulating, utilizing, and disseminating information; and coordinating efforts with law enforcement and other agencies.

Critical Incident: An incident that is typically of such magnitude that it necessitates a heightened emergency response, requires additional resources, extended on-scene command, recall and augmentation of personnel, or multi-agency response and support in order to protect life and property, prevent escalation, and restore order. Response to a critical incident will be determined by the type of incident, magnitude, and necessary personnel needed.

Critical Incident Response Roster: Prior to the start of every shift, a patrol district supervisor shall provide the Communications Division with a roster of personnel on duty for that shift, five (5) of which will be available for Rapid Deployment Critical Incident Response (RDCIR). The roster shall clearly indicate which five units on that shift are designated RDCIR units. Supervisors shall ensure that five such units are on duty in each district for all shifts. If the scope of the incident grows beyond the ability of RDCIR units to manage and / or control effectively, additional personnel augmentation will be requested.

Disaster District Committee (DDC): Established for each disaster district, each committee is composed of local representatives of the state agencies, boards, and commissions and organized volunteer groups with representation on the emergency management council. Each disaster district committee shall coordinate with political subdivisions located in the disaster district to ensure that state and federal emergency assets are made available as needed to provide the most efficient and effective response possible.

Emergency Management Plan (also “Harris County Emergency Management Plan” or “Harris County Basic Plan”: An all-inclusive emergency action plan using the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and adopted by Harris County for the management and control of a catastrophic event.

Emergency Operations Center (EOC): A pre-designated facility established to coordinate and support the overall agency response during an unusual occurrence or high risk incident. The EOC is operated and staffed by the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HCHSEM) and the HCSO.

Incident Command System (ICS): A system for command, control, and coordination of a response that provides a means to coordinate the efforts of persons and agencies as they work toward the common goal for stabilizing an incident while protecting life, property, and the environment.

Incident Commander (IC): The individual responsible for all incident activities, including the development of strategies and tactics and the ordering and release of resources. The Incident Commander has overall authority and responsibility for conducting incident operations and is responsible for the management of all incident operations at the incident site.

Media Staging Area: an area designated by the incident commander for the staging of media personnel to facilitate the enhanced flow of information between the designated PIO and the media. This area should not infringe on the scene but allow the media access to important information.

Staging Area: A location designated by the incident commander for the assembly of available resources, including personnel and equipment, for response to the incident.

Tabletop Exercise (TTX): A discussion-based exercise intended to stimulate discussion of various issues regarding a hypothetical situation.

Unified Command: In incidents involving multiple jurisdictions, a single jurisdiction with multiagency involvement, or multiple jurisdictions with multiagency involvement, unified command allows agencies with different legal, geographic, and functional authorities and responsibilities to work together effectively without affecting individual agency authority, responsibility, or accountability.

III. Policy

It is the policy of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office to maintain responsibilities and outline actions to be taken to protect life and property during an emergency and disaster. The Sheriff’s Office will implement the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the Incident Command System (ICS) in the event of any significant emergency operation or unusual occurrence.

Due to the multitude of catastrophic event possibilities, this “Operations and All-Hazards Plan” needs to be basic, flexible, and subject to modification to be effective in our response.

IV. Procedures

A. Authority for Implementation

In the event of a catastrophic event, man-made or natural, the Harris County Emergency Management Plan (Harris County Basic Plan) shall be implemented. The following are considered authority for this implementation:

1. The Harris County Judge,

2. The Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, or

3. The Harris County Sheriff or his or her designee.

B. Command Protocol and Coordination of Operations

1. In accordance with the Harris County Emergency Management Plan (Harris County Basic Plan), the Emergency Management Coordinator (EMC) shall assume incident command of a catastrophic event involving a natural or accidental man-made disaster. The Sheriff shall assume incident command of an event involving a criminal incident or civil disturbance.

2. The Sheriff or his or her designee shall exercise full authority over the operations and management of all Harris County law enforcement personnel and resources and be the liaison with the EOC in the event of activation of the County’s Emergency Management Plan.

3. The Field Operations Division commander is responsible for planning and coordinating functions and response of assigned bureau personnel and resources to a critical incident. The Homeland Security Bureau commander shall assume incident command and overall agency responsibility for planning and managing the law enforcement critical incident response for a catastrophic event or civil disturbance involving extended on-scene response and recall of personnel. The patrol district commander assigned to the area where the incident occurred shall serve as the assistant incident commander.

4. During the course of a critical incident, the HCSO has primary responsibility for:

a. Establishing an on-scene command post,

b. Law enforcement operations and investigation,

c. Scene security and staging area security,

d. Evacuations and warnings,

e. Communications with other law enforcement agencies, and

f. Coordination with the Emergency Operations Center.

C. Incident Command System

1. The Incident Command System (ICS) shall be the standard operating procedure of all critical incidents involving extended operational response. The ICS consists of five (5) primary elements: Command, Operations, Logistics, Planning, and Finance / Administration.

2. Each of the primary elements will have assigned personnel as needed to conduct the operation. The incident commander exercises all control for the event and directs the efforts of the personnel in charge of each of the functional elements.

3. For some types of critical events (hurricane, flooding, tornadoes, etc.) where warning is given, a specific incident scene may not exist in the initial response planning phase, and the Sheriff or his or her designee may accomplish initial response actions such as mobilizing personnel and equipment and issuing assignments. As the potential threat becomes clearer, and as a specific site or sites become identified, an Incident Command Post (ICP) may be established, and direction and control of the response will be transitioned to an incident commander located at the EOC or on scene.

4. If a critical incident occurs without warning, the first deputy to arrive on scene will implement the Rapid Response Critical Incident Plan and serve as incident commander until relieved by a supervisor or more qualified person. The incident commander will establish an Incident Command Post (ICP) and provide an assessment of the situation to a supervisor and the Communications Division, identify response resources needed, and direct on-scene response. The Incident Command System shall be implemented in accordance with the Harris County Emergency Management Plan.


D. Initiation of the Emergency Plan

Once the appropriate level of response has been determined, the on-scene patrol district commander or designee will be responsible for initiating the Emergency Management Plan and assume incident command until properly relieved. As additional personnel arrive at the scene, they will be assigned to various functions or phases of the operation as needed, including, but not limited to:

1. The Homeland Security Bureau commander or designee will be responsible for incident command consisting of the following:

a. Activating the Incident Command System,

b. Establishing a command post,

c. Initiating the notification and mobilization of additional agency personnel,

d. Obtaining support from other agencies,

e. Establishing a staging area, if deemed necessary,

f. Establish a Media Staging Area and provide information and media relations.

g. Maintaining the safety of all affected personnel, and

h. Preparing a documented after-action report.

2. The Patrol Bureau commander or designee will be responsible for the operations function consisting of the following:

a. Establishing inner and outer perimeters,

b. Delegating personnel to conduct evacuations if necessary,

c. Maintaining command post and scene security,

d. Providing for detainee transportation, processing, and confinement,

e. Delegating personnel to direct and control traffic, and

f. Conducting a post-incident investigation.

3. The Homeland Security Bureau commander or designee will be responsible for the planning function consisting of the following:

a. Preparing and documenting the incident action plan,

b. Gathering and disseminating information and intelligence,

c. Participating in a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP)/Continuity of Government Plan (COG), and

d. Planning post-incident demobilization.

4. The Homeland Security Bureau commander or designee will be responsible for the logistics function consisting of the following areas:

a. Communications and command post locations,

b. Establishing a staging area,

c. Transportation,

d. Medical support,

e. Supplies, food, temporary shelter, and rest, and

f. Specialized team and equipment needs.

5. The Finance and Human Resource Division (HR) or designee will be responsible for the finance and administration function consisting of the following:

a. Recording personnel time,

b. Procuring additional resources,

c. Recording expenses,

d. Documenting injuries and liability issues, and

e. Preparing appropriate reimbursement documents, if applicable.

E. Personnel Allocation

The command staff is assigned to carry out staff functions needed to support the incident commander in preparation for and during a catastrophic event and may utilize additional designated personnel to assist in carrying out their area of responsibility. A list of those personnel utilized during the incident and a list of non-utilized personnel shall be forwarded to the incident commander by each bureau commander. The incident commander shall maintain a list of sworn and non-sworn personnel available for deployment in additional position assignments not specifically identified in the general staff functions. These positions include designation of a Safety Officer (SO) and a Public Information Officer (PIO). Additional assistants and command staff positions may be assigned as determined by the incident commander.

F. Levels of Mobilization

Many natural catastrophic events follow some recognizable build-up period during which planning and actions can be taken to achieve a gradually increasing state of readiness. Readiness levels will be determined by the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HCOHSEM).

1. Level 4 – Normal Conditions: Emergency incidents occur, and local officials are notified. One or more departments or agencies may respond to handle the incident. An incident command post may be established. Limited assistance may be requested from other jurisdictions pursuant to established inter-local agreements. The normal operations of government are not affected.

2. Level 3 – Increased Readiness: A situation that presents a greater potential threat than “Level 4” but poses no immediate threat to life and / or property. Increased readiness actions may be appropriate when situations similar to the following occur:

a. Tropical Weather Threat: A tropical weather system has developed that has the potential to impact the local area. Readiness actions may include regular situation monitoring, a review of plans and resource status, determining staff availability, and placing personnel on call.

b. Tornado Watch: Indicates possibility of tornado development. Readiness actions may include increased situation monitoring and placing selected staff on alert.

c. Flash Flood Watch: Indicates flash flooding is possible due to heavy rains occurring or expected to occur. Readiness actions may include increased situation monitoring, reconnaissance of known trouble spots, and deploying warning signs.

d. Wildfire Threat: During periods of extreme wildfire threat, readiness actions may include deploying additional resources to areas most at risk, arranging for standby commercial water tanker support, conducting daily aerial reconnaissance, or initiating burn bans.

e. Civil Disturbance: For incidents with a previous history of problems, readiness actions may include reviewing security, traffic control, fire protection, and first aid planning with organizers and determining additional requirements.

f. Declaration of “Level 3” will generally require the initiation of the “Increased Readiness” activities to include personnel stand-by alerts.

3. Level 2 – High Readiness: A situation with a significant potential and probability of causing loss of life and / or property. This situation normally requires a full activation of the HCSO ICS structure for emergency operations and activation of the Harris County Emergency Operations Center. Twelve-hour shifts may be established along with staging of mobile command posts and emergency operations and response resources. This condition normally requires some degree of warning to the public.

Actions could be triggered by severe weather warning information issued by the National Weather Service such as:

a. Tropical Weather Threat: A tropical weather system may impact the local area within 72 hours. Readiness actions may include continuous storm monitoring, identifying worst-case decision points, increasing preparedness of personnel and equipment, updating evacuation checklists, verifying evacuation route statuses, providing the public with information for techniques on how to protect homes and businesses, and providing information on evacuation routes.

b. Tornado Warning: Issued when a tornado has actually been sighted in the vicinity and may strike in the local area. Readiness actions may include activating the EOC, continuous situation monitoring, and notifying the public about the warning.

c. Flash Flood Warning: Issued to alert persons that flash flooding is imminent or occurring on certain streams or designated areas and immediate action should be taken. Readiness actions may include notifying the public about the warning, evacuating low-lying areas, securing shelters to house evacuees, and continuous situation monitoring.

d. Winter Storm Warning: Issued when heavy snow, sleet, or freezing rain are forecast to occur separately or in combination. Readiness actions may include preparing for possible power outages, putting road crews on standby to clear and / or sand the roads, and continuous situation monitoring.

e. Civil Disturbance: Civil disorder or criminal incidents involving relatively large-scale localized violence is imminent. Readiness actions may include increased law enforcement presence, putting hospitals and fire departments on alert, and continuous situation monitoring.

4. Level 1 – Maximum Readiness: A situation where hazardous conditions are imminent. Depending on the event, twelve-hour shifts will be established. This condition denotes a greater sense of danger and urgency than associated with a “Level 2” event.

Actions could also be generated by severe weather warning information issued by the National Weather Service combined with factors making the event more imminent.

a. Tropical Weather Threat: The evacuation decision period is nearing for an approaching tropical weather system that may impact the local area. Readiness actions may include continuous situation monitoring, full activation of the EOC, recommending precautionary actions for special facilities, placing emergency personnel and equipment into position for emergency operations, and preparing public transportation resources for evacuation support.

b. Tornado Warning: A tornado has been sighted especially close to a populated area or moving towards a populated area. Readiness actions may include taking immediate shelter and putting response units on standby.

c. Flash Flood Warning: Flooding is imminent or occurring at specific locations. Readiness actions may include evacuations, rescue teams on alert, sheltering evacuees and / or others displaced by the flooding, and continuous monitoring of the situation.

d. Civil Disturbance: Civil disorder or criminal incidents are about to erupt into large-scale and widespread violence. Readiness actions may include having emergency medical service (EMS) units on standby, having law enforcement units present for duty, notifying the DDC that assistance may be needed and keeping them apprised of the situation, and continuous monitoring of the situation is required.

e. Confirmed Terrorist Incident: A confirmed terrorist incident has taken place. Readiness actions may include having EMS units on standby, having law enforcement units present for duty, notifying the DDC that assistance may be needed and keeping them apprised of the situation, and continuous monitoring of the situation is required.

G. Incident Command System Field Manual

In addition to HCSO policy and procedures, the Harris County Emergency Management Plan (Harris County Basic Plan) shall be available for use as a guideline for various critical incidents or catastrophic events.


1. The Harris County Basic Plan shall be maintained by the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

2. The Emergency Management Plan will be made available to all personnel, who will familiarize themselves with the contents. Additionally, copies will be placed in each Mobile Command Post and each bureau commander’s office.

H. Communications Center Responsibilities

1. The Communications Division supervisor shall ensure proper notifications are made regarding any reported critical incident or as directed by an on-scene incident commander.

2. Upon notification of the activation of the Emergency Management Plan (Incident Command System), the Communications Division supervisors shall notify appropriate command staff personnel and division commanders by, radio, or phone, identifying the level of mobilization.

a. A situation alert may be issued for any high risk incident, special event, or unusual occurrence. Such events may include demonstrations, large crowd events, or dignitary protection details, etc.

b. Additional situation alerts may be issued as an incident escalates or de-escalates.

c. A detailed log of all notifications shall be maintained throughout the critical incident.

I. Special Considerations in Establishing Command and Resource Areas

1. Command Post Selection and Activation

a. A field command post shall be established for all critical incident events that require a major commitment of departmental resources for an extended period of time. A field command post may be established by the supervisor at the scene for any event or occurrence regardless of the size of the operation.

b. The creation of a field command post helps the incident commander on the scene with tasks of commanding the operation while maintaining a system of communications, acquiring additional personnel and equipment, accumulating, utilizing, and disseminating information, and coordinating efforts with other agencies.

c. The location for a field command post should be:

i. In the vicinity and strategic to the occurrence,

ii. A site readily located and accessible to responding personnel,

iii. Of sufficient space to accommodate personnel and their vehicles,

iv. Close to public services (i.e., telephone, electrical, water, restrooms, etc.) whenever possible, and

v. Secure and defensible as much as possible.

d. Whenever possible, situation maps that have been prepared to detail building, structure, streets, routes, pre-planned barricade areas, etc., for use in determining perimeters, evacuation zones, staging areas, etc., will be maintained in the Communications Division or Mobile Command Post and will be made available to the incident commander.

2. Media Staging Area Selection and Activation

a. A media staging area will be established by the PIO as soon as possible with security provided by law enforcement personnel. The media staging areas should be located far enough away so as not to affect any operations and / or planning.

b. In addition, the media should be used by personnel to transmit information to the public to enhance the operations (e.g., media alerts to avoid barricaded streets, rumor control, etc.).

c. Incident commanders should note that with instant access capability to communications, on-site news crews, cell phones, etc., information will spread rapidly regarding an incident of significance. Commanders must be sensitive to this and should make the media a partner to ensure that accurate and timely information is released to the public to avoid, as much as possible, incorrect rumors and speculation.

3. Resource Staging Area Location Selection and Activation

In critical events requiring large numbers of personnel, or those which continue for an extended period of time, establishing a staging area separate from the field command post may be necessary. This allows command operations to remain free from disruption. The de-escalation of the staging area is determined by the incident commander in charge.

J. Mutual Aid

1. The incident commander may request and direct additional local law enforcement as needed and transition the ICS to a unified command system.

2. In the event the incident has escalated to the degree that requires the response of multiple agencies and resources, the management of the incident would transition from the ICS to a unified command system. The unified command structure is used when personnel and equipment from various agencies or jurisdictions become involved.

3. Upon activation of the Emergency Management Plan, the HCSO will work in conjunction with the other involved agencies in accordance with and as called for in the unified command system.

4. If additional personnel are needed, the Sheriff or his or her designee will contact the Texas Department of Public Safety or other such agencies as deemed necessary.

5. If additional assistance is needed from a federal law enforcement agency, the Sheriff or his or her designee will be responsible for such notification and request.

6. If state or federal military assistance is necessary to augment local law enforcement efforts involving a critical incident or other emergency situation, the Sheriff shall make a request to the County Judge who will make a determination and make official contact with the Governor or appropriate federal agency.

7. In the event of the suspension of civil liberties (commonly known as martial law), mobile field forces will be assembled and assigned to work with the National Guard.

K. Special Operations

A. If the on-scene incident commander determines an event requires specialized units to supplement patrol functions, the scene will be secured, and an appropriate perimeter will be established.

B. The Communications Division will contact the requested specialized unit (Bomb Squad, Canine, Crime Control Division, Crime Scene Unit, Investigations, Air Support Unit, or Special Weapons and Tactics Team) to respond.

C. The on-scene incident commander will maintain command of the incident; however, specialized unit personnel will be responsible for evaluating and determining appropriate actions to be taken by the specialized unit with support from the patrol function.

D. The on-scene incident commander will be responsible for coordination and cooperation between tactical teams and other operational components to ensure effective communications.

L. De-escalation Procedures

1. As the incident de-escalates, the incident commander will release personnel and stand down from the event in a manner that will accommodate the needs of incident command personnel while not producing a law enforcement void.

2. Personnel will be assigned to devastated areas for the period of time necessary to maintain order and prevent looting.

3. De-escalation should be a gradual process, allowing proper relief of personnel assigned to the incident for a protracted period of time. A full return to duty schedule should occur as appropriate personnel are available. The lengths of shifts may vary due to allowances for rest and recovery of all personnel.

4. The de-escalation procedures will include the collection of rosters, event logs, incident reports, and other necessary documentation from each deputy or supervisor involved in the incident.

5. The area patrol commander or his or her designee shall collect all essential data and produce an incident report of HCSO response and actions.

6. The incident commander will be responsible for preparing an after-action report using detailed activity summaries submitted by Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance if these functions were established during the incident.

7. The incident report and after-action report shall be forwarded to the Sheriff through the Homeland Security Bureau commander, Law Enforcement Command assistant chief, chief deputy, and to the accreditation manager.

M. Training

1. All affected HCSO law enforcement personnel shall be required to complete appropriate NIMS training for their rank and / or position. Key personnel in positions identified in the ICS manual will be trained in the requirements of the positions to be staffed.

a) In addition, the HCSO Academy shall conduct or coordinate annual training on the Incident Command System.

b) Documentation of the annual ICS training shall be maintained by the HCSO Academy.

2. Documented annual training on the agency’s All-Hazard Plan, to include the Incident Command System (ICS) for affected agency personnel, and

3. Documented biennial training consisting of a tabletop or full-scale exercise to assess the agency’s capabilities with the All-Hazard Plan and the Incident Command System.

N. Equipment

1. Equipment designated for use in response to critical incidents will be maintained in an operational readiness status, and documented inspections will be conducted quarterly and reported to the Bureau Commander.

2. Equipment available for critical incident response will vary in number and includes, but is not limited to:

a. Mobile command posts,

b. Communications on wheels trailer,

c. Satellite on wheels trailer,

d. Generators,

e. Bomb Squad vehicles,

f. Multi-person transportation vehicles,

g. Boats,

h. Special Weapons and Tactics Team vehicles, and

i. Aircraft (fixed wing and rotary).

3. All first responders assigned to the Patrol Bureau are issued protective equipment including gas masks and protective gear for use if they are involved in chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons (CBRN), and hazardous materials situations. Additionally, first responders are issued an Emergency Response Guidebook and receive training on awareness level guidelines, appropriate actions, and use of protective equipment in response to CBRN events.

O. Rapid Deployment to Critical Incidents

1. In the event of an unforeseen critical incident, the HCSO will move to expand emergency response and containment operations through immediate rapid deployment of critical incident response units from multiple patrol districts, and / or other local, state, and federal agencies.

2. Upon arrival at a potential critical incident, the first responding patrol deputy shall evaluate the scene and relay all pertinent information to his or her supervisor and the Communications Division. Based on a totality of information (i.e., the first responder’s report and the supervisor’s on-view / on-scene evaluation of the incident), the on-duty patrol supervisor will then make the decision to classify the scene as a critical incident. The supervisor shall notify the Communications Division and request Rapid Deployment Critical Incident Response units (RDCIR) to be activated and respond.

3. Upon notification of the critical incident, the Communications Division will activate and deploy the RDCIR units from the critical incident roster and place the HCSO Mobile Command Post (MCP) on standby. The on-scene supervisor will broadcast on a designated radio channel for all responding RDCIR units and patrol units already on site. All responding units shall then acknowledge and immediately switch to the designated channel using direct communications between units. Deployment of the RDCIR units will be based on the location of the incident, the severity of the incident, and current workload or ongoing major incidents in specific areas.

Immediately following RDCIR unit deployment, the Communications Division shall notify the appropriate patrol district commander and Patrol Bureau commander who will respond as the incident commanders.

4. The district commander of the affected area will establish an incident command post at the scene to direct and control emergency operations at the incident site and determine if the mobile command post or other resource response is necessary.

5. Upon arrival on scene, the Patrol Bureau commander will assess the incident and determine if it will require extended on-scene command (in excess of 18 hours and requiring the recall or augmentation of personnel), additional resources, or multi-agency response and support in order to protect life and property, prevent escalation, and restore order. If the incident will be short-term in nature, the Patrol Bureau commander shall continue as incident commander and ensure appropriate management of the scene along with ensuring appropriate documentation is submitted. In such incidents where a large-scale, extended on-scene command is required, the Homeland Security Bureau commander will assume incident command using the Incident Command System.

P. Special Events

1. Special events include parades and other similar events, each of which are handled through individual operations plans which are specific to the circumstances.

2. Depending on the nature of the event, the Law Enforcement Command assistant chief or his or her designee shall coordinate and approve special event operations plans which will include, at a minimum:

a. Special personnel qualification requirements, if any,

b. Command and control,

c. Written estimates of traffic, crowd, and / or crime problems anticipated,

d. Logistics requirements,

e. Coordination inside and outside the department,

f. Contingency plans for traffic direction and control, and

g. An after-action report.

Q. “Very Important Person” (VIP) Security Plan

1. General:

a. All requests for security services for VIP visitors will be directed to the Law Enforcement Command assistant chief who will make an administrative decision as to the level and nature of services to be provided.

b. The Law Enforcement Command assistant chief will designate a single person as supervisor and coordinator of any given security detail.

c. The security team coordinator will meet, as required, with the advance party or VIP security representative and will prepare necessary plans for provision of security services.

2. VIP visitors will generally fall into one of three types, which affect the level of necessary protection as follows:

a. Quiet, private visits with no or limited public activity. These require little or no security.

b. VIP known by name or position, but not by actual physical appearance. These may require limited security prior to the public appearance and more security after.

c. Readily recognizable VIP making public appearances. Law enforcement security assistance is required.


This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:

April 29, 2009  February 18, 2021

June 5, 2009   December 28, 2021

June 26, 2012

October 3, 2014

September 15, 2015

January 14, 2016

January 22, 2016

May 8, 2018

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