The Humanitarian Action Plan’s recommendations are systematically informed and meaningful to our region.

The Humanitarian Action Plan (HAP) is a coordinated emergency management plan to increase immigrant resilience, contribute to a more efficient and effective disaster response and recovery, and improve the health and safety of all through future disasters.


  • To help immigrant-serving organizations be prepared to best serve their clients through disasters.
  • To promote coordination among immigrant-serving organizations and disaster agencies in disaster planning for preparedness, response, and recovery.
  • To provide informed recommendations for systems-level agencies (primarily policy-makers, very large regional and national nonprofits, and funders) to integrate into their strategic emergency management plans and implement to increase our region’s resilience.

Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative (HILSC) set out to identify best practices, gaps and barriers in Hurricane Harvey response and recovery [Appendix G] to inform HAP recommendations. HILSC conducted: over 80 interviews with directors, managers and service providers from over 40 immigrant serving organizations [Appendix C]; two focus groups with immigrant advocates; and a focus group with undocumented immigrant clients. We then met with 11 systems-level agencies.

Three primary opportunities emerged to increase immigrant resilience to disasters:


Inclusive Communication

Accurate, timely, and actionable information must be provided to immigrants in accessible language to increase the efficiency of response and recovery, reduce rumors, and help them connect with resources.


Accessible resources

Preparedness, response, and recovery assistance – particularly privately-funded aid – must be available, accessible, and understandable to all immigrants.


Culturally competent approaches

All who play a role in emergency management must understand and address the core needs of immigrants and strategically design policies, services and materials to meet those needs.

On September 26, 2018, HILSC convened more than 30 people to workshop preliminary recommendations based on interview findings, identify missing key actions, and discuss implementation. Participants told us this was the first time that disaster and immigration experts had been called on to actively work together on disaster response planning.

This report presents 34 recommendations, including nine HILSC is committed to acting on, organized by broad categories, based on when they happen, at what level, and the approach and timing for implementation:

  • Disaster phasePreparedness actions improve the chance for successfully dealing with an emergency; a responsible and safe Response during an emergency saves lives and property; Recovery includes temporary and long-term measures to return to a safe and healthy life. Some recommendations are planned for in preparedness but implemented during response, so are labeled for both phases.
  • Implementation LevelFederal/State, County/City and Nonprofit are the levels at which recommendations must be implemented.
  • Implementation ApproachPolicy relates to needed changes in laws, rules, or regulations with broad-reaching impact; Program/Operations is related to changes within or the addition of new programs and/or how an organization operates; and Funding is where additional budget is needed to address a gap or barrier.
  • Opportunity for increased immigrant resilienceInclusive communication, Accessible resources, and Cultural competency are the themes that emerged from interviews and are described above

We’ve also identified timing and proposed implementers, most of whom have – as of the writing of this plan – been briefed on the recommendations and given feedback. Recommendations have been refined throughout the process, and were presented to our original group of interviewees in a November 27, 2018, webinar.

Systems-Level Agencies Interviewed for the HAP

American Red Cross, Recovery

City of Houston Health Department

City of Houston Housing and Community Development Dept

City of Houston Office of Emergency Management

City of Houston Office of New Americans and Immigrant Communities

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Greater Houston Community Foundation

Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Harris County Public Health

United Way of Greater Houston

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