What authority does a city have in dealing with a disaster?

The mayor is authorized to declare a local state of disaster or request that the governor declare a state of emergency if a disaster has occurred or is imminent. See id at §§418.108(a) and 433.001.  A declaration of a local disaster must be given general publicity and promptly filed with the city secretary. Id. at §418.108(c). The declaration of a local disaster activates applicable provisions of local or interjurisdictional emergency management plans and authorizes the furnishing of aid and assistance under the declaration. Id at 418.108(d).  A disaster declaration lasts for no more than seven days unless continued by city council.  Id. at §418.108(b). 

The mayor may order the evacuation of all or part of the population from a stricken or threatened area within the city limits if the mayor believes it is necessary for the preservation of life or other disaster mitigation, response or recovery.  Id. at §418.108(f).  The mayor may compel persons who remain in the evacuated area to leave and authorize the use of reasonable force to remove persons from the area.  Id. at §418.185(b).  A person who knowingly disobeys a mandatory evacuation order, and who engages in or fails to take action a reasonable person would have taken that results in the undertaking of a governmental rescue effort is civilly liable to a governmental entity that conducts the rescue for the cost of the rescued.  Id. at §418.185(d).  The mayor is also authorized to control access to and from a disaster area under the mayor’s jurisdiction and control movement of persons and occupancy of premises in such area.   Id at §418.108(g). 

In a city located wholly or partially in an area of a disaster declared by the United States president or the governor, the mayor may proclaim the city’s inability to comply with a deadline imposed by local law, including a deadline relating to a budget or property tax because of a disaster.  Id.  §418.1075. 

With respect to disease management, a city can take any action that is necessary to promote health and suppress disease, including quarantine, examining and regulating hospitals, regulating ingress and egress from the city, and fining those who do not comply with the city’s rules.  See Tex. Health & Safety Code §§122.005 (Type A general law cities) and 122.006 (home rule cities).

The mayor serves as the governor’s designated agent in the administration and supervision of disaster management duties set out in state law.  See Tex. Government Code §418.1015(b).  On the local level, the mayor may exercise the same powers granted to the governor under Chapter 418 of the Government Code (the Texas Disaster Act).  Id.  Accordingly, the mayor may commandeer or use any private property if the mayor finds it necessary to cope with a disaster, subject to compensation requirements.  Id. at §418.017(c).  The mayor may also suspend or limit the sale, dispensing or transportation of alcoholic beverages, firearms, explosives, and combustibles.  Id. at §418.019. 

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1. What authority does a city have in dealing with a disaster?