Cemetery Disaster Training

In 2017, Hurricane Harvey devastated numerous Texas counties, destroying or heavily damaging the built and natural environment. Historic cemeteries were among the casualties, suffering from damage caused by high winds and flooding. Gravestone in Rockport Cemetery damaged by Hurricane Harvey

In March 2019, the Texas Historical Commission (THC) received a grant from the National Park Service’s Emergency Supplemental Historic Preservation Fund to address the consequences of Hurricane Harvey on historic properties. Among the projects made possible by this grant funding is one which focuses on training stewards of historic cemeteries to better prepare for and respond to future disasters. 

THC, through our primary contractor Terracon, is developing a training package for disaster preparedness and response for historic cemeteries. The overall goal for this project is to provide caretakers of historic cemeteries with the knowledge and skills necessary to assess risks; prevent or minimize hurricane disaster-related damages; prioritize and carry-out post-disaster stabilization and response work; and to generally build greater resiliency to withstand and recover from disasters. The primary focus of this effort are cemeteries located in the region impacted by Hurricane Harvey (see green shaded counties on this map).

To help us meet these goals, Terracon will develop a series of training webinars and videos that will address the fundamental actions cemetery caretakers can take to safeguard the valuable cultural landscapes under their care. To make sure the training content is as helpful and relevant as possible, Terracon and THC will solicit information about Harvey-related impacts from cemetery caretakers through direct communication (email or phone) and in a series of virtual stakeholder meetings.


Thursday, August 25, Noon | Registration closed
Join us for virtual, interactive discussions centered around disaster preparedness and response in historic cemeteries. Engage in conversations with our topic specialists and your peers about how the historic cemeteries you care about were impacted by Hurricane Harvey or other natural disasters; what the recovery process looked like; and what challenges still exist. These Stakeholder Meetings (held on Zoom) are intended to serve as a forum for those involved in cemetery care and maintenance to connect with others in their region to begin or reinforce a resiliency-building network. The theme of each meeting is slightly different, based on the content covered in the preceding webinar.

  • Previous meetings held on August 3 and December 8, 2021; also April 19, June 2, and July 12, 2022
  • If you are interested in the program but are not able to participate in these meetings, you can submit any comments or questions to ESHPF_Cemetery@thc.texas.gov


Webinar 1 - Lay of the Land: Pre-Disaster Cemetery Orientation
View the recording here.
Prepare for an emergency situation by getting back to basics. Attend this presentation to gain a better understanding of the significance of historic cemeteries and the importance of building a base of community support before disaster strikes.

Download handouts from this webinar:

Webinar 2 - Cemetery Survey and Data Collection: Pre-Disaster Documentation
View the recording here.
In this webinar, learn the importance of pre-disaster documentation and how to do it. Get tips for creating, maintaining, and storing all types of documentation, including burial records, maps, inventories, condition assessments, and photographs.

Download handouts from this webinar:

Webinar 3 - Risk Assessment & Pre-Disaster Planning for Historic Cemeteries
View the recording here.
Learn to assess the potential threats, existing issues, and possible conditions your cemetery may experience during a disaster event. Then, build a step-by-step plan that can help reduce the impact of a disaster.

Download handouts from this webinar:

Webinar 4 - Sound the Alarm! Immediate Response to Disaster in Historic Cemeteries
View the recording here.
Participants in this webinar will leave with tools for prioritizing response actions immediately leading up to and following a natural disaster. We’ll discuss coordinating efforts with local responders; identifying sources of funding support and technical assistance; and how to document the damage post-disaster.

Download handouts from this webinar:

Webinar 5 - Post-Disaster Recovery and Restoration
Recording available soon - thanks for your patience!
In this webinar, our technical experts will review typical disaster-related deterioration mechanisms, illustrate basic restoration and conservation strategies, and outline restoration issues that will require professional assessment and conservation/repair. 

Download handouts from this webinar:

Webinar 6 Building Resiliency in Historic Cemeteries
View the recordng here.
A resilient historic cemetery has the capacity to adapt to changing conditions and to prepare for, withstand, and rapidly recover from disruptions—including those brought on by natural disasters. Join us for the final webinar in our disaster-focused series as we re-examine all of the key components for building a resilient cemetery. Learn how to set attainable goals in the areas of preservation maintenance, safety, community involvement, and funding support to ensure the cemetery you care about can endure whatever challenge it might face.

Download handouts from this webinar:


Was your cemetery impacted by Hurricane Harvey or other recent natural disaster? We want to hear from you. Send us an email and a team member will follow up. Learning more about your cemetery disaster experience will help us develop the most relevant content possible.