Some people like to refer to it as the “Blue Book,” though the cover was only printed on blue cardstock paper in 2004. Today, a newly reinvented guide now available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help local community officials develop new or updated local mitigation plans.
The Local Mitigation Planning Handbook (FR302-094-1) is FEMA’s official guide, and while the requirements under the Code of Federal Regulations have not changed, the handbook helps fill needs that previous versions were lacking. So in 2011, FEMA decided upon a very concise set of recommendations to change the existing guidance.
First, the purpose of mitigation planning is to reduce risk to natural hazards, so the focus of the plan should be the mitigation strategy. Establishing quality risk assessments is still a significant part of the planning process, but plans fail if they don’t identify solid mitigation actions. The handbook provides improved descriptions of how to develop a mitigation strategy, but now has an implementation section to help guide officials after the plan has been adopted.
Second, the tools used by FEMA to review plan were bureaucratic. The handbook is written in “plain English,” and is chock full of practical approaches on how to meet the federal requirements for what needs to be in the plan, without dictating a single approach to how a community plans.
Third, the handbook format has been completely revised with more graphics and a better layout for easier navigation. Most of the new layout is to accommodate just a handful of the many examples of good planning practices from real local mitigation plans that have been developed in the last decade. Communities lead by example; with over 28,000 local jurisdictions, there is a body of practice that can be shared with others.
Finally, the guidance has an expanded set of tools and worksheets that communities can use to engage in effective planning to reduce long-term risk from natural hazards and disasters.
Among other benefits, completion of a local mitigation plan is a requirement for FEMA approval and eligibility for FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance grant programs. The Handbook complements and liberally references the Local Mitigation Plan Review Guide (Oct. 1, 2011), which is the official guidance for federal and state officials responsible for reviewing local mitigation plans in a fair and consistent manner. Both the handbook and the guide are available on the FEMA Website at FEMA.gov/mitigation-planning-laws-regulations-guidance.
With over 91% of the nation’s population located in areas that have developed a local mitigation plan within the last decade, there is a good chance that your community is listed - but if you don’t know, please find out soon.