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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.

The Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has seen the recent impacts from flooding events on their wild rice which are a cultural and important natural resource for the tribe. The tribe has invested in several planning efforts over the years to help mitigate/reduce the flooding risks to the wild rice lakes. Recently, the Grand Portage Ojibwe people reached out to Cook County, Minnesota and collaborated with other neighboring tribes to integrate their hazard mitigation, wetland and climate adaptation plans.

Santa Rosa, California

In 2017, Santa Rosa was ravaged by the Tubbs Fire, part of a series of fast-moving wildfires that spread across Northern California. To better plan for and reduce the risk of future wildfires, the city decided to integrate its community wildfire protection plan and local hazard mitigation plan. The community wildfire protection plan annex builds on the local mitigation plan by providing more detailed, site-specific wildfire assessments and an action plan for mitigating wildfire risk.

Nashua, New Hampshire

The city of Nashua used the hazard mitigation planning process to launch a larger effort focused on long-term community resilience. The Resilient Nashua Initiative used city staff across all aspects of government, from public works to public health to the conservation commission. The city also partnered with other organizations.

Santa Clara Pueblo

Learning Objective: Examine how a tribal government with limited prior disaster management experience embraced a collaborative approach after a devastating fire and subsequent floods to successfully build back better.

Multi-jurisdictional hazard mitigation planning can be an effective process to build partnerships between communities that face common hazard risks, leading to shared solutions. It can also help build a foundation to shift priorities as risks and vulnerabilities change.
A good hazard mitigation plan assesses a community's risk and prioritizes solutions to address that risk. It is created by community experts with input from various stakeholders including the public-those who live and work in the community.
The purpose of mitigation planning is for state, local, and tribal governments to identify the natural hazards that affect them and develop a mitigation strategy to reduce potential losses from these hazards. Many communities, especially those with limited capacity, struggle to develop and evaluate meaningful mitigation strategies that match their capability and resources to carry out.
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.

This report, Electrical Transmission and Distribution Mitigation: Loss Avoidance Study, assesses the effectiveness of completed electric system mitigation projects in Nebraska and Kansas affected by the ice and wind storms of December 2006 through January 2007.

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.
Southwestern Community College (SWCC) implemented tornado safe room mitigation measures in constructing two student dormitories. These rooms were completed independent of Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) program funding.

FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA)- Funded Acquisition and Elevation Projects

On August 25, 2017, the President approved a Major Disaster Declaration for Texas as Hurricane Harvey dropped an unprecedented amount of rain on coastal areas of the State. Although the impacts and damage dealt by Harvey are still being determined, FEMA can demonstrate that the losses would have been worse if HMA-funded acquisition and elevation projects had not been completed in the impacted areas.

This study examines losses avoided in the State of North Carolina as a result of previous hazard mitigation projects. A large number of the projects were property acquisition and demolition in this analysis. The data clearly show that substantially more damage would have occurred if these properties had not been acquired.
This study evaluated 197 elevation projects in northern California following winter floods in 2006
735 Acquisitions on Village Creek

Coalition Building Through Natural Boundaries

Learning Objective: Examine the cross-agency partnerships, projects, and innovative financial management strategies employed in Colorado to rebuild and restore the natural flood mitigation benefits of regional watersheds after the devastating flood in 2013.

Galena, Alaska - Flood Recovery

Learning Objective: Share the steps taken and lessons learned by a rural community in central Alaska to integrate resilience into rebuilding efforts and be better prepared for future flood events.

Hurricane Irma Recovery in Florida

Learning Objective: Review and analyze the community-focused coordination approach the state of Florida utilized to improve collaboration and expedite recovery efforts following Hurricane Irma.

Ellicott City, 2016 - Flash Flooding Recovery

Learning Objective: Evaluate the impact that pre-disaster planning and community participation had on shaping economic recovery after a dangerous flood in a historic city.

Coordinating Federal Resources for a Non-Stafford Act Event

Learning Objective: Examine the collaborative federal interagency assistance initiative in Connecticut to address a non-declared emergency event: crumbling concrete foundations in thousands of residential homes.  

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. After being inundated by floodwaters for 2 consecutive years (1997 and 1998), the city initiated an acquisition (buyout) project that not only moved residents out of harm’s way, but also expanded a widely used park.

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

“We can get more than 100 inches of rain in a year,” said Richard LeBlanc, Jr., general manager of Jefferson County Drainage District #6. It’s his job to manage all of that rainwater, for Beaumont and nearly the whole county.

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. Through the years of flooding, the banks of the Lackawanna River washed away to the point that the houses are sitting in the floodway.

The project consisted of the acquisition and demolition of the 13 properties. Various city agencies assisted in the implementation of the project.

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. Another 13,757 persons were injured. The earthquake destroyed 1,018 homes and 366 businesses. Another 23,408 residences and 3,530 businesses were damaged.

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. The city has a total area of 2.7 square miles, all of it land, with about 2,500 acres draining to the northeast of Clinton. So why is flooding an issue? It is attributed to the Goose and Coon Creeks overflowing into the floodplain.

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. While many cleaned up the muddy mess and made repairs as they had in the past, two of the homeowners sought to end the irritations and damages of frequent flooding by raising their houses above possible future floodwaters.

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. Most notably in October of 1996 flood waters and sewage entered the building via the main waste line, the garage area, and the elevator sump. Flooding caused damage to five living units, the fire alarm, fire suppression system, the elevator (a vital evacuation tool for the disabled), and the basement area which was used for an after-school program.

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. These were very hazardous conditions – like a tinderbox waiting to be ignited.

Beginning in April 1998, as many as 80 simultaneous wildfires were reported on any given day. By mid-July, more than 2,000 fires had consumed almost half a million acres across the state.

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. Situated along that boardwalk are boutiques, restaurants, and a pre-war replica of a 187-foot-high Ferris wheel, which harkens back to a time when World War II soldiers took their dates on evening rides, soaring through the night air beneath a well-lit sky.

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. Beginning in 2001, the building underwent a state-of-the-art retrofit to enable it to withstand a Category 4 hurricane. It is now wrapped in a hurricane-resistant shell.

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. In 1990, they had a combined population of just over 35,000 in this predominantly rural area with most settlements restricted to narrow river valleys. Thus, the primary concern in this area is flooding. Since 1967, both counties have received Presidential disaster declarations as a consequence of flooding five times.

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. They added a safe room inside a hallway of Lara Kendall School to protect the students and local residents in need of immediate shelter. Schools throughout the state have organized plans to move the children to shelter when severe weather strikes.

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. Most property owners had their life savings invested in these properties. They faced financial ruin since no one would buy the floodprone properties and it seemed that just when they finished re-building, a new flood would occur.

 

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.

New Richmond is also a town of resilient Ohioans who want to keep their history alive and thriving. So they looked for ways to learn from the past and stop the cycle of destruction and reconstruction.

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.

But within days, Hurricane Isabel moved into the area with a vengeance. Nine inches of water covered the first floor living space, with flood water over 5 feet deep surrounding the house. The hurricane blew down trees and branches, leaving debris everywhere.