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Hazard Mitigation Planning Frequently Asked Questions

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

What is the Stafford Act?

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, as amended by the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000, provides the legal basis for State, Tribal, and local governments to undertake risk-based approaches to reducing natural hazard risks through mitigation planning.

The Stafford Act requires State, Tribal, and local governments to develop and adopt FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plans as a condition for receiving certain types of non-emergency disaster assistance. It also authorized the following grant programs: Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program (PDM), Public Assistance Grant Program (PA), and the Fire Management Assistance Grant Program (FMAG).

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 an understanding of local risks and current capabilities and a commitment to investing in long-term community well-being.

What is hazard mitigation planning? What is a hazard mitigation plan?

Hazard mitigation planning is a process that State, Tribal, and local governments use to identify risks and vulnerabilities associated with natural hazards (e.g., hurricanes, tornados, floods), and then develop long-term strategies for protecting people and property from future hazard events.

A hazard mitigation plan assesses the current and possible future risk and the community capabilities for a given geographic area, and then assigns long-term mitigation strategies to address vulnerabilities. Developed with community stakeholder and public input, State, Tribal, and local governments use these plans to help break the cycle of disaster damage, reconstruction, and repeated damage.

Why develop and adopt a FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plan?

Developing hazard mitigation plans helps State, Tribal, and local governments to:

  • Increase education and awareness around natural hazards, their impacts, and community 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 that focus resources on the greatest risks and vulnerabilities;
  • Integrate planning efforts and risk reduction with other community planning efforts. This leads to efficiencies when implementing projects and makes long-term planning more holistic;
  • Align risk reduction with other State, Tribal, or community objectives; and
  • Communicate priorities to potential funders.

Mitigation planning is most powerful when it is combined with other planning processes, regulations, policies, and decisions.

What does my plan have to do with funding?

FEMA requires State, Tribal, and local governments to develop and adopt hazard mitigation plans as a condition for receiving certain types of non-emergency disaster assistance, including funding for mitigation projects. Jurisdictions must update their hazard mitigation plans and resubmit them for FEMA approval every five years to maintain eligibility. Visit the Hazard Mitigation Plan Requirement page for more information on the mitigation plan requirements for certain FEMA grants.

How does hazard mitigation planning 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.

I’m new here. Where can I find basic information about mitigation planning?

Every mitigation plan includes an inclusive planning process, an assessment of natural hazard risk and impacts, and a mitigation strategy. If you are new to mitigation planning, start with the Mitigation Planning Program Resource List. This list includes basic information and connects to resources for understanding mitigation planning, developing a mitigation plan, implementing a mitigation plan, and connecting mitigation planning to other community efforts.

I’m ready to write or update my plan. What should I look at first?

FEMA is committed to helping State, Tribal, and local partners build their capabilities and plan for and mitigate their natural hazard risks. There are three resources you should look at, depending on what kind of plan you are working on:

  • The Local Mitigation Planning Handbook is the official guide for local governments to develop, update, and implement local mitigation plans. It offers practical approaches, tools, worksheets, and local mitigation planning examples.
  • The Tribal Mitigation Planning Handbook guides Tribal governments as they develop their hazard mitigation plan using practical approaches and a step-by-step process.
  • The State Mitigation Planning Key Topics Bulletins are brief documents that contain guidance for States in complying with FEMA’s mitigation planning regulatory and policy requirements.

All of these resources are available on the Mitigation Planning Resources page.

I need more help. Where do I go?

A good starting point is the Hazard Mitigation Planning Training page. This page connects you to independent study and in-person training opportunities that will help you learn more about mitigation planning and how to develop a mitigation plan.  

Local planners are encouraged to contact their State Hazard Mitigation Officer for assistance. State, Tribal, and local officials can contact the Lead Mitigation Planner in the Mitigation Division of their FEMA Regional Office. Tribal officials can also contact their Regional Tribal Liaison.

Why is it important to include future climate and weather patterns in my plan?

When developing a long-term hazard mitigation strategy, it is essential to understand the probability of future events, including considerations of changing future conditions. After all, disaster risk changes over time and will continue to change. Communities that plan for future conditions by strengthening their management of high-risk areas, building codes, and land use standards are much more likely to recover quickly from severe events and to preserve their community for years to come.

FEMA’s mitigation planning policies specify that State and Tribal governments must consider future climate and weather patterns when assessing the probability of future hazard events. Local hazard mitigation plans must address the probability of future hazard events, but they are not required to factor in long-term changes in weather and climate. It is still a good idea though, because understanding the probability of future hazard events is the basis for a long-term strategy to reduce risks.

What are the Plan Review Guides?

The State, Tribal, and local Mitigation Plan Review Guides are FEMA’s policy and official interpretation of the hazard mitigation planning requirements in Title 44 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 201 for State, Tribal, and local governments, respectively. FEMA and State (when applicable) plan reviewers use these guides to consistently evaluate and approve mitigation plans.

What is an enhanced State or Tribal Plan?

Enhanced status is an incentive FEMA provides for State and Tribal governments that demonstrate that they have developed a comprehensive mitigation program and can manage increased funding to achieve their mitigation goals. Following a disaster declaration, enhanced States and Tribes can receive increased funding through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). There are currently 11 States with enhanced plans; no Tribal governments have enhanced plans as of yet. You can check the status of a plan anytime on the Plan Status page.

What is Program Administration by States (PAS)?

Program Administration by States (PAS) is a program that allows FEMA to delegate local hazard mitigation plan review and approval to designated States. FEMA can also delegate traditional grant management responsibilities, which include, but are not limited to, reviewing project applications, completing Benefit-Cost Analyses for projects, approving scope-of-work modifications, and moving funds between applicable projects. The intent of the program is to give States increased control and oversight of their hazard mitigation projects and plans.

PAS States are listed on the Plan Status page. For more information on PAS, view the PAS Guidance on-line or contact your FEMA Regional Office.

Last Updated: 
08/20/2019 - 13:02