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Mitigation Best Practices

Mitigation Best Practices are stories, articles or case studies about individuals, businesses or communities that undertook successful efforts to reduce or eliminate disaster risks.

They demonstrate that disaster preparedness decreases repetitive losses, financial hardship and loss of life.

FEMA seeks to inspire and educate citizens to consider mitigation options by highlighting proven practices implemented by others in their homes and communities. It is our hope that visitors to this library find relatable and informative techniques to reduce their risk and eliminate hazards.

Explore mitigation planning examples on the Mitigation Planning Success Stories story map. It highlights success stories on plan implementation, plan integration, outreach, engagement and equity. If you have a success story worth sharing, please email us.

Universities are not required to complete hazard mitigation plans. Most do not, instead relying on and participating in their local jurisdiction or county plan. The county hazard mitigation plan covers a broad geographic area and did not have the level of detail needed to take all the university associated risks into account. East Tennessee State University (ETSU) is like a small city with unique risks and vulnerabilities, which are spread out among several smaller ancillary campuses in different jurisdictions. Andrew Worley, the university’s emergency management specialist, explained that “we felt that there were specific needs and concerns about a university campus that may not apply to cities and counties.” For example, the university maintains its own critical facilities, such as its emergency operations center, food services, power plant and telecommunications buildings.
Coastal communities face a range of flooding hazards that include storm surge, waves and erosion—all of which can severely damage homes, businesses and infrastructure. Waves, in particular, can damage properties located farther inland than one would expect. Some communities use the Limit of Moderate Wave Action (LiMWA) to inform the adoption of higher building codes and standards in areas vulnerable to waves.
Santa Cruz is a city of 65,000 people located on Monterey Bay on California’s central coast. The Pacific Ocean lies to the south and the Santa Cruz Mountains border the city to the north. This dynamic landscape makes the city vulnerable to coastal hazards such as storm surge, erosion and flooding, as well as mountain hazards of wildfire and landslide. Like most California municipalities, the city has several plans to address its vulnerability to these hazards.
The Knox County, city of Knoxville and town of Farragut Multi-Jurisdictional Local Hazard Mitigation Plan avoided a one-size-fits-all approach by conducting extensive public outreach and engagement efforts. These Tennessee communities used the planning process itself as an educational tool to help community members learn more about their risks and mitigation efforts.
Lummi Indian Reservation, Washington – The Lummi Nation’s hazard mitigation planning began with the 2001 Flood Damage Reduction Plan. The Nation developed the plan to address ongoing flooding that turns a large portion of the Reservation, the Lummi Peninsula, into an island. The Nation formed a Multi-Hazard Mitigation Team to create a comprehensive and integrated plan that increases access to potential project funding. Over the last 2 decades, the Lummi Nation has experienced gaps in funding and resources to complete certain large-scale projects. Despite the gaps, the Lummi Nation continues to regularly review, update and implement their FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plan.
City of New York, New York - Hazard mitigation plans (HMPs) are often dense, technical documents that can be hundreds of pages. New York City was one of the first communities in the country to convert its plan content into a web-based, living document. New York City Emergency Management (NYCEM) led the effort to replace the 500-page printed mitigation plan with an interactive and visually appealing website that has user-friendly tabs to communicate risk and promote mitigation investments.
WASHINGTON D.C. AND IOWA - State Program Consultations - Every year, FEMA and a state or territory work together to find ways to advance mitigation programs during an annual mitigation program consultation meeting. When successful, these touchpoints strengthen communication, relationships and mitigation outcomes. Below are how Washington, D.C. and the state of Iowa approached these meetings to better engage partners and attendees.
LOWER PLATTE SOUTH, NE - Hazard mitigation plans are often difficult for communities to actively implement because of financial constraints. Funding for mitigation projects can be difficult to secure, especially for expensive infrastructure which requires both design and construction. Working together on mitigation projects is a way communities can share and reduce project costs, though getting those connections in place is a challenge all its own.
MANITOU SPRINGS, CO - After a close call with the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012 and subsequent flooding and debris flow in 2013, the City of Manitou Springs, Colorado realized that it needed to take a more proactive approach to preserve its historic structures and unique natural assets. This small community relies heavily on year-round tourism, but its location and environmental conditions make it vulnerable to natural hazards. These include steep topography, loose soils, multiple creeks and natural drainage channels, and proximity to forested open space.
BALTIMORE, MD - 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.
FRANKLIN, PA - Hazard mitigation plans are guides for reducing risk. However, communities often lack the resources to put their plans into action because of low staff capacity, financial resources, or a lack of existing relationships. Franklin County, Pennsylvania faces these challenges and more as they grapple with urban and rural communities, and both a mountainous and agricultural landscape.
MARSHFIELD, MA - The town of Marshfield, Massachusetts, is a coastal community with rivers and wetlands. About 40% of the buildings in town are in Special Flood Hazard Areas along the coast. The town has experienced large flood events, including a seawall breach in 2015 during Winter Storm Juno. High risk and high flood insurance costs prompted town officials to better plan for disasters to help their residents.
PORTLAND, OR - Oregon residents still remember the devastating 1948 Vanport flood, when 19,000 people were left homeless, disproportionately families of color. Recent planning efforts set out to ensure that history won’t repeat itself. The 2012 “Portland Plan, a Strategic Roadmap for the City”, contains a vision for equity that all city bureaus and offices are responsible for pursuing. This vision required a fresh look at the “2010 Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan” to work toward a future where vulnerable populations do not carry disproportionate burdens when recovering from natural disasters.
SNOHOMISH CO, WA - To qualify for disaster-related federal grants under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, Snohomish County needs to maintain and update their Hazard Mitigation Plan. The plan covers several jurisdictions. Naturally there are some competing interests, potential for duplication of efforts, and different timing requirements involved with this process.

MILWAUKEE COUNTY, WI – Located at the confluence of the Menomonee River and Underwood Creek, the city of Wauwatosa has had a history of flooding since it was settled in the 1850s.

BEAUMONT, TX — Folks in Beaumont used to call their town “Bayou City” because it was under water so often.

DOUGLASVILLE, GA – Robin Wagner remembers waking in the middle of the night more than once to the sounds of pounding rain and crashing thunder. Each time meant she had to grab her flashlight and rush outside to check the height of the creek that ran behind her house.

SCRANTON, PA - In January 1996, Nay Aug Avenue experienced its second major flood in 11 years. The 13 homes along the avenue were built prior to 1940 with no footers for the foundation to rest on. Additionally, the foundation walls were of stone and crumbling mortar.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - On Oct. 17, 1989, an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter Scale rocked the San Francisco Bay area. Named the Loma Prieta earthquake, it was felt by millions of people in a 400,000-square-mile area. Sixty-three persons died because of the earthquake.

DEWITT COUNTY, IL – Located in the heart of central Illinois, the town of Clinton is one of the most productive agricultural areas in the nation. While trying to maintain productivity, the town has to contend with floods.

SARASOTA, FL – In July 2003 summer rains in Sarasota County once again swelled the Myakka River beyond its bank, this time flooding 41 homes for 30 days.

BOSTON, MA - The Fenway Community Development Corporation owns and manages a building on Peterborough Street. This building is an affordable residence for the sick, elderly, and disabled. In 1996 the building was flooded twice.

FLORIDA - In 1998, Florida suffered one of the worst series of wildfire events on record. Heavy plant growth in previous seasons, followed by hard winter freezes, led to an abundance of dead vegetation. Months of serious drought conditions caused the dead vegetative matter to dry up.

Guam - The U.S. Territory of Guam is the largest and southernmost island in the Mariana Islands archipelago. Many typhoons form in the western Pacific Ocean, and in the past 50 years more than 25 typhoons have struck the island.


MYRTLE BEACH, SC – The Myrtle Beach boardwalk is a sight to see. A meandering 1.2 miles of solid oak walkway guides visitors along a scenic path that’s reminiscent of a 1940s classic film.

MIAMI, FL – The fanciful, brightly colored exterior of the Miami Children’s Hospital (MCH) belies the inherent strength of the facility, which can be used as a medical shelter during hurricanes.

ADA, MN - The small town of Ada, population 1657, lies in the flat fertile farmlands of northwest Minnesota. The Wild Rice River meanders its way through the countryside a mile outside of town, traveling fifteen miles to empty into the northward heading Red River.

TUCKER AND RANDOLPH COUNTIES, WV - Tucker and Randolph Counties stretch for more than 75 miles along the northern fringe of the Allegheny Mountains in eastern West Virginia.

LAKE COUNTY, TN – After tornadoes devastated two schools in nearby cities at the beginning of summer vacation, school board officials in Ridgely, Tennesssee began revising tornado safety plans for Lake County schools.

MORGAN COUNTY, WV - Residents in various Morgan County locations along the Potomac River and its tributaries have suffered repeated flood damage. These rural locations experienced major floods in November 1985 and again in January and September 1996.

NEW RICHMOND, OH - New Richmond, a small, historic Ohio village about 20 miles upriver from Cincinnati on the Ohio River, is no stranger to flooding. Its flooding history is most eloquently told in pictures.

POQUOSON, VA - On September 16, 2003, Tim Morrison and his family finalized the purchase of their new home. Though eager to move in, the Morrison family had to wait until the renters currently occupying the house moved out.

OCEAN COUNTY, NJ – Fred Harvey and his wife, Cecilia, were on vacation when Post-Tropical Cyclone Sandy struck New Jersey causing severe damage along the coast. While viewing a news story of the storm, they realized they were viewing the damage to their neighborhood in Holgate, New Jersey.

MOORE, OK - Charles Atchley and his wife escaped unscathed after the 1999 Oklahoma tornado, but decided not to take their good fortune lightly. They took advantage of a FEMA tornado initiative ($2,000 rebate) and installed a below-ground safe room.

LOUISIANA – Contractors and homeowners in Southern Louisiana are visiting local home improvement stores with thoughts of rebuilding, following the destruction Hurricanes Katrina and Rita brought to the Gulf Coast in August and September 2005.

GALLOWAY, NJ – All emergencies, hazards, and disasters have one key concept in common: an emergency operations plan (EOP). Nearly one week before Hurricane Sandy ravaged the New Jersey coast, communities prepared for the storm, but many were not nearly prepared for what actually took place.

MILWAUKEE, WI - As basements dried and Milwaukee residents discarded water-soaked belongings, it was evident that flood-proofing needed to be done in regards to these saturated homes and basements.

DAUPHIN ISLAND, AL - Only a year after they were built, the homes at 1301 and 1303 Chaumont experienced their first flood damage from Hurricane Camille in August 1969. After years of repetitive losses, however, Hurricane Ivan (2004) did no further damage to either home.

BURLEIGH COUNTY, ND - Before breaking ground for the office condominium he built in southeast Bismarck, Scott Beierle, along with his associates, analyzed the flood history and risks at the site.

WAKE COUNTY, NC – On April 16, 2011, Chris Crew was at home in Wake County, NC, looking out of his second floor window wondering where his wife and daughter were.

NAPA, CA – In 1987, Jim Hallock bought a flood-damaged duplex and spent nearly $50,000 to remove and replace the downstairs sheetrock and flooring. The property was flooded again in 1998 and 2003, and incurred $100,000 in damages.

MADISON, WV - Jack and Elvonna Bowyer had flood insurance, but when severe flooding of the Spruce and Pond Fork Rivers dumped seven inches of water in their first floor and 12 inches of water in their garage, they were at their wits end.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - The CHUG (Central HAZUS Users Group) provides a means of collaboration between HAZUS-MH users within FEMA Region 5. This group looks at software challenges, HAZUS-MH projects, and the overall general use of HAZUS-MH software.

DURHAM, NH - The College Brook flows through property owned by the University of New Hampshire and down through residential and commercial neighborhoods in the Town of Durham, ultimately emptying into Mill Pond.

LACEY, WA - Holmes Island lies within the waters of beautiful Long Lake in western Washington State. Less than 30 homes are on the island, with only one road and bridge for access and one pipeline for its water source. That waterline follows along Holmes Island Road and across the bridge.

FORT COLLINS, CO - Frequent flooding events have plagued Fort Collins over the decades, disrupting lives and destroying property. A 1997 flood resulted in five deaths and damages to more than 2,000 homes and businesses.

HIDALGO COUNTY, TX – Federal and local agencies worked against the clock to keep the citizens of Hidalgo County safe from the raging Rio Grande River in July 2010. The residents of the small town of Peñitas had no idea they were so close to danger.

GALVESTON, TX – Homes in Galveston were devastated with the arrival of Hurricane Ike, a storm that brought a 12-foot surge to the island on September 13, 2008.

KINSTON, NC - In 1999, Hurricane Floyd had decreased in strength to a Category 2 hurricane before reaching North Carolina’s coast; but the City of Kinston was still devastated by severe flooding.

LUZERNE COUNTY, PA – Margie Thomas has lived and worked in the Wyoming Valley area all her life. There, she has witnessed many disasters and the hardships they bring to the affected communities.

Last updated April 27, 2021