Hazard Mitigation Planning Frequently Asked Questions

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This page gives answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) concerning hazard mitigation planning.

Frequently Asked Questions

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What is Mitigation Planning?
Mitigation planning is a process through which communities assess risks and identify actions to reduce vulnerability to hazards through hazard mitigation.

What is a Mitigation Plan?
A Mitigation Plan is a community-driven, living document that communities use to reduce their vulnerability to hazards.

Why assess and plan for risk?
The plan and its process show the link between land-use decisions and vulnerability. It serves as a tool to be used by planners or other officials to advise and inform decision makers.

What is the Stafford Act?
The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Public Law 93-288), as amended by the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000, provides the legal basis for State, local, and Indian Tribal governments to undertake a risk-based approach to reducing risks to natural hazards through mitigation planning.

Why have a Mitigation Plan?
Communities must have a plan to apply for or receive a Mitigation Grant. These grants can augment local mitigation activities already being done. Ultimately, these actions reduce vulnerability, and communities are able to recover more quickly from disasters.

What is the State Mitigation Plan Review Guide?

In early March 2015, FEMA announced the release of the State Mitigation Plan Review Guide (“Guide”). Starting March 6, 2016, the Guide will be FEMA’s official policy on the natural hazard mitigation planning requirements at Title 44 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 201, and FEMA’s interpretation of federal regulations for state hazard mitigation plans, inclusive of the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. The Guide is available from the FEMA Library (https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/101659).

What is hazard mitigation planning?

State, tribal, and local governments engage in the mitigation planning process to identify risks and vulnerabilities associated with natural disasters and establish a long-term strategy for protecting people and property in future hazards events. State mitigation plans are one of the conditions of eligibility for certain FEMA assistance, such as Public Assistance Categories C-G and Hazard Mitigation Assistance. States are required to update the state mitigation plan every five years. Visit the FEMA Mitigation Planning website for more information (https://www.fema.gov/multi-hazard-mitigation-planning).

Is the State Mitigation Plan Review Guide in effect now?

No, the Guide will go into effect on March 6, 2016 for all state mitigation plans submitted to FEMA for review and approval. Until then, the current state guidance titled “Multi-Hazard Mitigation Planning Guidance under the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000” (January 2008) is in effect.

Are States required to include the term “climate change” to receive FEMA-approval?

No, the plan does not need to use the term “climate change,” but the plan must include a summary of the probabilities of future hazard events as well as changing future conditions. The mitigation planning regulation at Title 44 CFR Part 201 does not prescribe the specific hazards that must be addressed, nor the specific data or methodology to assess risks. State risk assessments must provide an overview of the type and location of all natural hazards that can affect the state, including the “probability of future hazard events, using maps where appropriate” [44 CFR §201.4(c)(2)(i)].  Conducting a risk assessment based on climate change data, the sensitivity of the planning area to climate change impacts, and the ability of your state and communities to adapt to climate change impacts is one way to plan for the probabilities of future hazard events.

Changes in the probability of future hazard events may include changes in location, increases or decreases to the impacts, and/or extent of known natural hazards, such as floods or droughts. Changes in temperature, intensity, hazard distribution, and/or frequency of weather events may increase vulnerability to these hazards in the future.  Understanding the probability of future events, including considerations of changing future conditions, serves as the basis for developing a long-term strategy to reduce risks and vulnerabilities statewide.

How will FEMA determine if a state addressed climate change?

Effective March 6, 2016, FEMA will use the procedures described in the Guide, Appendix A: Submission and Review Procedures for all state mitigation plans submitted to FEMA for review and approval. The Guide clarifies “probability of future hazard events” in state mitigation plans to include:

  1. “a summary of the probability of future hazard events that includes projected changes in occurrences for each natural hazard in terms of location, extent, intensity, frequency, and/or duration;” and
  2. “considerations of changing future conditions, including the effects of long-term changes in weather patterns and climate on the identified hazards.”

Due to the inherent uncertainties with projections of future hazard events, states are expected to look across the whole community of partners (for example, public, private, academic, non-governmental, etc.) to identify the most relevant data and select the most appropriate methodologies to assess risks and vulnerability.  For more information on this requirement, refer to Element S4, page 15 of the Guide.

What are some of the triggers for the clarification of “probability of future hazard events”?

FEMA’s Climate Change Adaptation Policy (2011-OPPA-01) directs FEMA programs and policies to integrate considerations of climate change adaptation1. The mitigation planning regulation (44 CFR Part 201) requires consideration of the probability of future hazard events as part of the risk assessment in order to reduce risks and potential damage.  In addition, the President established the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience in 2013 with the task of recommending how the Federal government can best respond to the needs of communities nationwide already dealing with the impacts of climate change2.  In response to the Task Force’s recommendations, the President announced a series of Federal government actions, including the inclusion of considerations of climate variability in state mitigation planning efforts. 

Why did FEMA clarify that plan adoption means by the highest elected official?

FEMA clarified that the regulatory requirement found at 44 CFR Section 201.4(c)(6) of “formally adopted by the State” means adoption by the highest elected official or designee. FEMA further clarified that “highest elected official or designee” means “a senior state official with authority to commit the various state agencies responsible for implementing the mitigation actions identified in the plan”. The intent is to demonstrate commitment to the plan and provide statewide recognition of risk reduction as a priority. For more information on this requirement, refer to Element S19, page 24 of the Guide.

1 Authorities: The Homeland Security Act of 2002, as amended (6 U.S.C. 101 et seq.); the Stafford Act; the President’s Executive Order 13514 “Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance” (October 2009); the 2010 Climate Change Adaptation Report drafted by the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force; and the Instructions for Implementing Climate Change Adaptation Planning issued by the Council on Environmental Quality.

2 See July 16, 2014 White House Fact Sheet: “Taking Action to Support State, Local, and Tribal Leaders as They Prepare Communities for the Impacts of Climate Change” (https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/07/16/fact-sheet-taking-action-support-state-local-and-tribal-leaders-they-pre)


Last Updated: 
04/02/2015 - 14:31
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