This page provides answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) concerning hazard mitigation planning.
What is mitigation?
Mitigation is the effort to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters. Mitigation is taking action now—through analyzing risk, reducing risk, or insuring against risk—to reduce the human and financial consequences of future disasters. Effective mitigation requires understanding of local risks, addressing hard choices, and investing in long-term community well-being. Not taking mitigation action jeopardizes our safety, financial security, and self-reliance.
What is hazard mitigation planning?
Hazard mitigation planning is a process state, tribal, and local governments use to identify risks and vulnerabilities associated with natural disasters, and to develop long-term strategies for protecting people and property from future hazard events.
What is a hazard mitigation plan?
A hazard mitigation plan is a stakeholder-driven document that a state, tribal, or local government uses to describe risks and vulnerabilities as well as long-term strategies and implementation approaches for reducing loss of life and property from natural disasters. Mitigation plans are key to breaking the cycle of disaster damage, reconstruction, and repeated damage.
Why develop and adopt a FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plan?
Developing hazard mitigation plans enables state, tribal, and local governments to:
- Increase education and awareness around threats, hazards, and vulnerabilities;
- Build partnerships for risk reduction involving government, organizations, businesses, and the public;
- Identify long-term strategies for risk reduction that are agreed upon by stakeholders and the public;
- Identify cost effective mitigation actions, focusing resources on the greatest risks and vulnerabilities;
- Align risk reduction with other state, tribal, or community objectives; and
- Communicate priorities to potential sources of funding.
Moreover, a FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plan is a condition for receiving certain types of non-emergency disaster assistance, including funding for mitigation projects.
How Does Hazard Mitigation Support Community Resilience?
Resilience is the capacity of individuals, communities, businesses, institutions, and governments to adapt to changing conditions and to prepare for, withstand, and rapidly recover from disruptions to everyday life, such as hazard events.
Hazard mitigation planning is the foundation of community resilience because it encourages the development of a long-term mitigation strategy. By going through the planning process, communities think about their risks and develop mitigation actions and projects before a disaster even has a chance of occurring, making it easier to recover from future events.
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, tribal, and local governments to undertake a risk-based approach to reducing risks from natural hazards through mitigation planning.
What is the Tribal Mitigation Plan Review Guide?
In December 2017, FEMA announced the release of the Tribal Mitigation Plan Review Guide (Tribal Guide). Starting December 5, 2018, the Tribal Guide will be FEMA’s official policy on and interpretation of the tribal hazard mitigation planning requirements in Title 44 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 201. The intended use of the Tribal Guide is to facilitate consistent evaluation and approval of tribal mitigation plans as well as to facilitate compliance with the mitigation planning requirements when developing or updating plans. It addresses both standard and enhanced planning requirements for tribal governments. The Tribal Guide replaces the Tribal Multi-Hazard Mitigation Planning Guidance (2010).
What is the State Mitigation Plan Review Guide?
In early March 2015, FEMA announced the release of the State Mitigation Plan Review Guide (State Guide). Starting March 6, 2016, the Guide will be FEMA’s official policy on and interpretation of the state hazard mitigation planning requirements in Title 44 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 201. FEMA’s state mitigation planning requirements also apply to the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories (Guam, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands). The State Guide is intended to facilitate FEMA officials’ consistent evaluation and approval of state mitigation plans, as well as to support state compliance with the mitigation planning requirements when updating plans. The State Guide sets forth the standard operating procedures for the submission and review of both standard and enhanced state mitigation plans and introduces a mitigation program consultation to provide ongoing support for state mitigation programs and activities.
Is the State Mitigation Plan Review Guide in effect now?
Yes, the State Guide went into effect on March 6, 2016 for all state mitigation plans submitted to FEMA for review and approval.
What is an enhanced state or tribal mitigation plan?
FEMA provides additional incentives to states and tribes through enhanced mitigation plans. A state or tribal government with a FEMA-approved enhanced state mitigation plan is eligible to receive increased funds under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) following a disaster declaration. Specifically, a state or tribal government with an enhanced plan receives HMGP funds based on 20% of the total estimated eligible Stafford Act disaster assistance, versus 15% for those with non-enhanced mitigation plans. To receive FEMA approval of an enhanced mitigation plan, a state or tribal government must demonstrate that it has developed a comprehensive mitigation program and is capable of managing increased funding to achieve its mitigation goals. There are currently 11 states with enhanced plans; no tribal governments have enhanced plans yet.
Are states and tribal governments 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)]. Similarly, tribal governments’ risk assessments must include ‘information on previous occurrences of hazard events and on the probability of future hazard events” [44 CFR §201.7(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 states, tribes, 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 State Guide, Appendix A: Submission and Review Procedures for all state mitigation plans submitted to FEMA for review and approval. The State Guide clarifies “probability of future hazard events” in state mitigation plans to include:
- “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
- “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 State Guide.
How will FEMA determine if a tribal government addressed climate change?
FEMA will use the procedures described in the Tribal Mitigation Plan Review Guide, Appendix B: Submittal and Review Procedures for all tribal mitigation plans submitted to FEMA for review and approval. The Tribal Guide clarifies “probability of future hazard events” in Element B2 and states that tribal mitigation plans must include the probability of future events for each identified hazard. “Probability must include considerations of future conditions, including the effects of long-term changes in weather patterns on identified hazards.”
Probability may be defined in terms of general descriptors, historical frequencies, statistical probabilities, and/or hazard probability maps. In addition, “Probability of future events and considerations of changing future conditions may be described using qualitative and/or qualitative information.”
Why did FEMA clarify that state 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 State Guide.
Where can I get more information on integrating individuals with disabilities and others with access and functional needs into hazard mitigation planning?
FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration Coordination (ODIC) leads FEMA’s commitment to whole community emergency management (including hazard mitigation planning), inclusive of individuals with disabilities. ODIC provides guidance, tools, and strategies to integrate planning for people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs. Visit the ODIC Fact Sheets for more information.
The Emergency Management Institute offers training on this topic. E0197: Integrating Access and Functional Needs into Emergency Planning provides planners with the information necessary to use inclusive practices in emergency management.