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. The primary focus of this effort are cemeteries located in the region impacted by Hurricane Harvey (see green shaded counties on this map).

THC has developed a two-phased 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. 

In Phase 1 of the project (Aug. 2021 - July 2022), our primary contractors at Terracon Consultants developed a series of training webinars and videos that address the fundamental actions cemetery caretakers can take to safeguard the valuable cultural landscapes under their care (see recorded webinars below). These webinars were supplemented by a series of virtual stakeholder meetings which allowed us to solicit information about Harvey-related impacts from cemetery caretakers, as well as provided a forum for caretakers to interact with another and our topic specialists in conversations about the recovery process and ongoing challenges. These meetings served 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.

Phase 2 of the project will take place in March 2023 and consists of a full-day, in-person workshop that will build upon the fundamentals provided in the webinar series and provide hands-on instruction in grave marker stabilization, maintenance and repair.


Historic gravestone specialists Jason Church (NCPTT) and James “Rusty” Brenner (Texas Cemetery Restoration LLC) will lead this active-participation, hands-on workshop focused on gravestone repair and restoration techniques that you can use both before and after a disaster. Participants will learn to level, reset and make other repairs to historic gravestones in a historic cemetery setting.

There is no cost to participate in the workshop, but capacity is limited in order to ensure a quality learning experience. Priority access will be given to board members, staff, and active volunteers responsible for historic cemeteries located in the 41-county area most heavily impacted by Hurricane Harvey (Click "Hurricane Harvey" and see green shaded counties on this map.) If necessary, we may restrict participation to only 2 representatives per cemetery organization in order to allow as many cemeteries as possible to benefit from this training.

Workshop will be held from 9am - 4pm in three communities (same workshop, different location):

  • McDaniel Street Cemetery, Houston, March 9
  • Wharton Cemetery, Wharton, March 10
  • Rockport Cemetery, Rockport, March 11

Pre-registration for the event is REQUIRED and space is limited. If you are interested in participating in a workshop, please call 512-463-6044 to inquire about availability and other details. 


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 recording 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.