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Under the Sustainability Umbrella: Baltimore’s Plan Integration

Challenge

The city of Baltimore, Maryland has found itself increasingly at risk from harmful levels of snow and rain, heat waves and sea level rise. A historic port city, Baltimore is also vulnerable to the effects of climate change. As its population grows, keeping everyone safe is more of a priority than ever. Hazard mitigation is often separate from other planning efforts, but there is an increasing need to consider it at the same time as other planning and development efforts.

Solution

In 2007, the Baltimore City Council established the Baltimore Office of Sustainability to be a resource and advocate for a resilient city moving forward. The office helped to develop the first Baltimore Sustainability Plan in 2009.

The overlap of sustainability and risk reduction became more of a focus in 2013 when the city’s single-jurisdiction hazard mitigation plan was due for an update. The Department of Planning and the Office of Sustainability formed an advisory committee to discuss these topics in more detail and to chart a path forward. Ultimately, the committee created a plan that tackles reducing risks from natural hazards and addresses the social needs that come with creating a sustainable city. This plan is known as the Sustainability and Disaster Preparedness and Planning Project, or DP3.

In 2019, the DP3 plan was updated to add more detail on climate adaptation, assessing risk, and putting projects into action. This most recent planning effort generated over 250 strategies, many of which have been started or completed. Several of these sustainability goals focused on mitigating or reducing the impact of natural hazards. One project involved weatherizing more than 10,000 low-income family units, saving over $10 million by reducing utility bills. Another strategy was to join FEMA’s Community Rating System program to reduce the cost of flood insurance by 25% for nearly 2,000 properties.

Moving Forward

Baltimore’s combined planning efforts have already produced results. One particular effort, the Resiliency Hub Program, designated nine community centers and organizations as “resiliency hubs” to act as anchors in times of crisis. This program played a large role in early 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began as the city used these hubs to provide assistance to residents. Multiple city agencies grouped together at these locations to provide food, personal protective equipment, and other supplies to community members who needed it most.

Hazard mitigation is now thoroughly embedded in many of the city’s functions. Combining planning efforts has improved relationships across departments and offices, creating links where none existed before. This made goals across the city more in sync than ever before, thereby strengthening every aspect of the community. As the DP3 plan is further integrated into planning and development projects, this coordination and the resulting partnerships will streamline funding as projects will no longer be separate from one another.

To keep the DP3 plan accurate, relevant and current, the DP3 advisory committee meets regularly to discuss the status of projects and completes annual reviews. This ensures that the plan is a living document that will remain useful for a long time to come.

Key Takeaways

Combining its hazard mitigation, climate adaptation, and other key programs and initiatives has allowed the city of Baltimore to develop a more complete plan and vision for future emergency preparedness and citywide planning.

  1. DP3 and other planning efforts have created relationships across city departments and the community. This has brought mitigation planning into the spotlight during city council meetings and other planning efforts.
  2. The focus on building relationships has made implementation easier. The city has developed relationships with organizations that can assist in strengthening communities before, during and after disaster events.
  3. The city has benefited from implementing the mitigation strategies in the DP3, through both cost savings and improved relationships.

Related Documents and Links

The application window to apply for Hazard Mitigation Assistance grants through FEMA is open through Jan. 29, 2021. To learn more about funding eligible projects, review the Flood Mitigation Assistance Program and the new pre-disaster mitigation program, Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities. A FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plan is required for funding under these programs.

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Last updated January 14, 2021