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Improving Community Resilience: The Importance of Hazard Mitigation Plans

On this episode of UrbanHydro, host Shauna Urlacher talks about the importance of hazard mitigation planning and its role in reducing vulnerability to natural hazards. Listeners will learn how this planning process involves identifying potential hazards, assessing risks, and developing effective mitigation strategies. She highlights the need for an approved plan to be eligible for FEMA flood relief grants and outlines the process for developing and submitting the plan. Don't miss this informative episode on protecting communities from natural disasters.



Key Moments

[00:00:01] FEMA plan reduces damages from natural hazards.

[00:03:16] FEMA approval is needed for a hazard mitigation plan.

FEMA-Approved Hazard Mitigation Plan: A Guide to Understanding

Natural disasters can strike at any time, and when they do, they can leave a devastating impact on homes, businesses, and entire communities. This is why Hazard Mitigation Plans are needed. These plans aim to reduce or eliminate the risk of future damages caused by natural disasters. But exactly what is a Hazard Mitigation Plan? In this blog, we will cover the definition and purpose of a Hazard Mitigation Plan, as well as the importance of having a FEMA-approved plan. We will also delve into the mitigation planning process and discuss the funding and resources available for implementing such plans. If you want to protect your community from potential natural disasters, this guide to understanding FEMA-approved Hazard Mitigation Plans is a must-read.

What is a Hazard Mitigation Plan And Why Do I Need One?

creating a flood relief plan

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) established the concept of the Hazard Mitigation Plan (HMP) in 2000, under the Disaster Mitigation Act. A Hazard Mitigation Plan is a written document developed by state, county, and local governments in partnership with FEMA to identify potential natural disasters and minimize the risk of damage or loss. It aims to safeguard lives, property, and the environment from future disasters, and help communities become eligible for funding opportunities.

Think of the dream vacation you’ve always wanted to take. You’re going on the trip, but you need to plan out flights, lodging, food, and an itinerary. You can go to Disney and only ride three rides all day with hours-long lines for each, or you can dine with Mickey and hit your favorite attractions when you make a plan ahead of time. Without it, you’ll flounder and it won’t be the dream vacation you’d intended. The hazard mitigation plan does the same for your community.

natural disaster flood relief

Definition and Purpose

A Hazard Mitigation Plan assesses the risks of natural hazards and outlines prevention and mitigation strategies. Local governments require it for certain types of aid eligibility and should be updated every five years. FEMA approves local government Hazard Mitigation Plans, including the local hazard mitigation plan and multi-jurisdictional hazard mitigation plan, as per regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

The primary goal of the Hazard Mitigation Plan is to reduce the damages that might occur from different natural hazards. It identifies ways of reducing future damages caused by such hazards, focusing on long-term solutions rather than solely responding to post-disaster damage. These plans allow communities to proactively reduce risk from natural hazards and become safer, more disaster-resilient communities.

flood relief planning for public works directors

Importance of FEMA-Approved Plans

Natural disasters like floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes can cause significant economic, social, and environmental damages. According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, in 2020, the United States saw 22 natural disasters that exceeded $1 billion in damages, totaling $95 billion in losses. While such natural disasters can't be prevented, their impact on human life and property can be lessened through planning, such as a FEMA-approved Hazard Mitigation Plan.

An effective Hazard Mitigation Plan provides a roadmap for mitigation planning in case of future disasters. It not only assesses the impact of hazards such as wildfire, drought, or flooding but also identifies mitigation actions that can be implemented by local governments. FEMA's policy guide recommends best practices for effective mitigation planning which includes risk assessment, non-emergency mitigation actions, and coordination with stakeholders. The plan should be updated regularly to reflect changes in the community and new data on potential hazards and mitigation strategies.

Requirements for a FEMA-Approved Hazard Mitigation Plan

County and community plans must be reviewed by the state. Once the state has reviewed the plan, it will submit the plan to FEMA for approval. The lead agency and participating communities can adopt the plan before or after submitting it to FEMA. FEMA needs a resolution adopting the plan from each jurisdiction that wishes to be eligible for FEMA assistance. It’s important to note that a community not only needs to adopt the plan by resolution but that resolution must be submitted to FEMA before the community is eligible for the full complement of Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) Grants.

Mitigation Planning Process

Mitigation planning is crucial in reducing disaster losses and providing eligibility for hazard mitigation grants. Developing a Hazard Mitigation Plan involves identifying natural hazards and their potential impact on communities and infrastructure. A planning committee is responsible for developing and reviewing drafts of the plan, creating the mitigation strategy, and submitting the final plan for local adoption. Other stakeholders such as universities, businesses, and citizens are also involved in the planning process. The stakeholders inform the planning team on specific topics and provide input from different points of view in the community.

prepping for a hazard mitigation plan

The final plan is a comprehensive document, developed in collaboration with stakeholders and the public, that includes an action plan to eliminate or reduce risks from natural hazards. The action plan lists specific action items for each jurisdiction. Ideally, any projects submitted to FEMA for funding will be listed in the Hazard Mitigation Plan as an action item.

Funding and Resources for Mitigation Plans

Once a hazard mitigation plan is approved by FEMA, it is valid for five years; however, the plan is a living document that requires continual updates to remain current. Part of the planning process is to describe how the plan will be monitored, evaluated, and updated over time. The Planning Committee should meet as described in the plan (typically annually), update the status of the action items and make any other necessary updates.

FEMA provides planning grants for communities to prepare or update their hazard mitigation plan. A community applying for a planning grant would be a sub-applicant to the State. Planning grant sub-applications should identify the steps required to complete a hazard mitigation plan. The cost and level of effort to develop or update a local hazard mitigation plan grow with the complexity of the planning area, planning process, and analysis needed. Also, if one or more communities that will be covered by the plan participate in FEMA’s CRS Program and the plan will include the additional CRS planning steps, this additional effort should be noted in the sub-application.

Grants for Flood Relief Projects

Communities can apply for grants for flood relief projects to mitigate the impact of natural hazards (such as floods). To be eligible for funding, communities must develop a detailed hazard mitigation plan outlining their action plan to reduce the risks identified in the plan, such as mitigation projects. These mitigation projects may include elevating homes, constructing flood walls, or buying out flood-prone buildings in high-risk areas. They may also include infrastructure projects such as detention ponds and storm sewers that control floodwaters and reduce the risk of flooding to existing buildings.

The hazard mitigation grant program is a great resource for communities looking to mitigate the impact of natural hazards like floods. And regardless of which FEMA grant program your community chooses to pursue, having a FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plan in place is necessary.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plan is an essential tool for communities to prepare for and reduce the risks associated with natural disasters in the long term. This plan is designed to identify potential hazards and vulnerabilities in your area, assess their impact on your community, and develop strategies to reduce or eliminate those risks. It is crucial to have a FEMA-approved plan as it provides access to vital federal funding and resources during an emergency.

Already have your mitigation plan ready to go? Click over to our high-level overview of the benefits and process of flood mitigation grants to see where you are in the process.


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