Disaster Manual

The State Bar of Texas, Sidley Austin, LLP, Houston Bar Association, Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative, Houston Volunteer Lawyers, Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, Lone Star Legal Aid, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, United Policyholders, and Disability Rights Texas have created a disaster manual for pro bono volunteers. The manual is used as a reference when handling issues that frequently arise during disasters – from giving quick advice and limited scope services to handling an entire case. The manual is reviewed annually and updated to reflect current law and relevant disaster information. These are the topics covered in each chapter along with a link to the chapter itself. If you want to view or download the entire manual, click here

Chapter 1: Introduction
This is the introduction to the Disaster Manual. more »

Chapter 2: FEMA and Related Forms of Assistance 
Following the declaration of a “major disaster” in the United States or its Territories, federal assistance is made available to supplement the resources of state and local governments and voluntary relief organizations. This chapter defines what situations may constitute a natural disaster for purposes of receiving assistance and outlines the various financial resources that may be available. more »

Chapter 3: Falling Trees, Flying Limbs & Loud Neighbor
Disaster damage from heavy rains, high winds and flooding may occur in several different ways. Objects such as furniture, heavy tree limbs, even uprooted trees can also cause damage. This chapter addresses common issues and questions regarding such situations and discusses other matters like objects to damaged persons or property. more »

Chapter 4: Landlord/Tenant Issues
This chapter details Texas statutory and common law regarding the rights of landlords and tenants with respect to residential leases and the myriad of situations that may occur following a disaster. more »

Chapter 5: Real and Personal Property
This chapter provides summaries and Q&A discussions that seek to anticipate some of the practical questions that homeowners, tenants, and business owners might ask concerning real and personal property issues. more »

Chapter 6: Employer/Employee Issues
This chapter provides practical advice for helping individuals who have temporarily or permanently lost employment or are facing other employment-related issues as a result of a disaster. more »

Chapter 7: Social Security, Banking, and Financial Issues
This chapter offers information and answers to commonly asked questions about social security benefits, financial institutions, and other financial issues following disasters. more »

Chapter 8: Consumer Protection Issues
Unfortunately, unscrupulous consumer practices increase during and following disasters. Disaster victims, especially senior citizens, the disabled, and limited English or non-English speakers are vulnerable to scams. This chapter is designed to help volunteer attorneys provide preliminary guidance to victims of consumer fraud or those with debtor/creditor problems in Texas. more »

Chapter 9: Insurance Issues
This chapter provides information and answers to commonly asked questions about insurance related issues following major disasters. more »

Chapter 10: Health Care Issues
This chapter offers information to help volunteer lawyers navigate questions that range from state resources to inquiries about health care insurance or malpractice liability. more »

Chapter 11: Personal Bankruptcy Issues
The damages and dislocation caused by a disaster often leads to victims filing for bankruptcy. This chapter provides resources including applicable sections of the Bankruptcy Code and answers to common questions asked about bankruptcy. more »

Chapter 12: Replacing Lost Documents
This chapter covers how to go about replacing documents that are lost, destroyed, or damaged during a disaster. more »

Chapter 13: Family Law, Child Welfare and Foster Care Issues
Displacement during and after disasters can cause unique legal issues in the family law context. In addition to issues regarding custody, visitation, and child support, incidents of domestic and sexual violence increase after disasters. Disasters can also uniquely impact families involved in the child welfare system and children and youth in foster care. This chapter covers how these systems function, provides resources to support clients involved in these systems, and answers specific questions that may arise during disasters. more »

Chapter 14: Education Law Issues
Students who are homeless or displaced as a result of a disaster are at a higher risk of losing services. This chapter provides laws and information about education law issues during disasters. more »

Chapter 15: Immigration Issues
Increased interaction with local and federal law enforcement agencies during disaster relief efforts place immigrants in precarious situations where seeking assistance may jeopardize their ability to remain in the country. These resources address the common issues and questions that non-citizens face in disaster situations regarding the exercise of their legal protections and rights. more »

Chapter 16: Community Organizations/Small Businesses
Disasters can cause both physical and economic damage to small businesses and nonprofits, resulting in both unexpected disaster-related damage repair costs and loss of revenue. This chapter addresses the unique challenges and most common issues community organizations and small businesses face during disasters. more »

Chapter 17: Wills and Estate Planning
This chapter addresses wills and estate planning documents and options for people involved in disasters. more »

Chapter 18: Disability Rights in Disasters
This chapter provides resources to address various issues people with disabilities may face during disasters. more »

Chapter 19: Resource & Referral Guide
This chapter provides a list of resources and contact information for community organizations, and local, state and federal agencies who can assist disaster victims. more »