Multi-Jurisdictional Plan Coordination

Should your community adopt a single or multi-jurisdiction plan? Consider the pros and cons. Single jurisdiction plans offer sole discretion and autonomy in how the community will conduct its planning process and can be suitable for any community, large or small.  However, single jurisdictions plans might limit opportunities for coordinated planning and sharing resources across communities.  Some of the strengths and weaknesses of multi-jurisdiction plans are summarized in the box below.

Multi-Jurisdictional Benefits and Challenges

Multi-jurisdictional planning processes can offer the following advantages:

  • Improves communication and coordination among jurisdictions and other regional entities
  • Enables comprehensive mitigation approaches to reduce risks that affect multiple jurisdictions
  • Maximizes economies of scale by leveraging individual capabilities and sharing costs and resources
  • Avoids duplication of efforts
  • Provides an organizational structure that local jurisdictions may find supportive

While offering these potential benefits, a multi-jurisdictional planning process can also present the following disadvantages:

  • Reduces individual control and ownership over the mitigation planning process
  • Involves coordinating participation of multiple jurisdictions, which may have different capabilities, priorities, and histories working together
  • Requires specific information on local risks and mitigation actions for each jurisdiction
  • Requires the organization of large amounts of information into a single plan document

If you determine that participating in a multi-jurisdictional planning effort is the best option for your community, then identify whether it is appropriate to join an existing planning effort underway or take the lead on initiating a multi-jurisdictional plan. Multi-jurisdictional planning is most effective when jurisdictions face the same threats or hazards of concern, operate under the same authorities, have similar needs and capabilities, and have successfully partnered in the past.

You may look to partner with neighboring jurisdictions and quasi-governmental agencies, such as school districts, transportation authorities, and utility or service districts. Special districts have a vested interest in reducing threat and hazard impacts, particularly if they provide services critical to recovery efforts. In states where ice storms, tornadoes, and wind storms are common, rural electrical cooperatives and municipal electrical utilities are often mitigation partners. A Federally recognized Indian Tribal government may also choose to participate in a multi-jurisdictional plan; however, the Tribe must meet the requirements specified in 44 CFR §201.7, Tribal Mitigation Planning. Most importantly, identify those jurisdictions that will help maximize the benefits of multi-jurisdictional plans as described in the sidebar.

After identifying the planning area and participating jurisdictions, it would be helpful to secure a level of commitment from all participants. Ask the participating jurisdictions to sign a Memorandum of Understanding or Letter of Intent at the beginning of the planning process that outlines requirements for each participating jurisdiction. See the sample Memorandum of Agreement for a multi-jurisdictional planning team in Worksheet 1.2.

Any jurisdiction or organization may participate in the planning process. However, to obtain FEMA approval, each of the local jurisdictions must meet all of the requirements of 44 CFR §201.6. In addition to the requirement for participation in the process, federal regulations specify the following requirements for multi-jurisdictional plans:

  • The risk assessment must assess each jurisdiction’s risk where they may vary from the risks facing the entire planning area. (44 CFR §201.6(c)(2)(iii))
  • There must be identifiable action items specific to each jurisdiction requesting FEMA approval or credit of the plan. (44 CFR §201.6(c)(3)(iv))
  • Each jurisdiction requesting approval of the plan must document that is has been formally adopted. (44 CFR §201.6(c)(5)) 

The mitigation plan must clearly list the jurisdictions that participated in the plan and are seeking plan approval. It is also helpful to include a map showing the jurisdictional boundaries of the planning area.

Best Practices

New Hanover County, NC

The New Hanover County, NC 2010 Plan was selected as a best multi-jurisdictional plan because it clearly identified the geographic scope for the plan and its participating jurisdictions and displayed it on a map.



Harris County, TX

The Harris County, TX 2010 Plan was also selected as a best practice because it identified all continuing and new participants including Flood Control Districts, Hospital Districts, Department of Education Districts, and the 26 participating municipalities within Harris County. The Harris County, TX plan also identified additional jurisdiction that participated in the plan development, but did not meet the obligations necessary to be recognized by FEMA as a formal participant. It also identified whether or not the jurisdictions were continuing participants or new to the 2010 plan.



Coastal Bend Council of Governments, TX

The Coastal Bend COG plan involved the participation of 22 communities along the Texas coast: the Cities of Alice, Beeville, Bishop, Corpus Christi, George West, Ingleside, Kingsville, Orange Grove, Port Aransas, Portland, Premont, Robstown, Rockport and Three Rivers; the Town of Fulton; and the Counties of Aransas, Bee, Jim Wells, Kleberg, Live Oak, Nueces and San Patricio.  This plan was selected as a best practice because  jurisdictions signed a formal agreement under State law to commit to the coordination of the multidisciplinary plan.

“As an initial step, letters were mailed to the Chief Elected Official of each municipality within the original tri-county area, inviting formal participation in the planning project. All but the smallest rural communities accepted. The next step was to formalize the relationship between the participants; therefore, an Interlocal Agreement was developed under the applicable provisions of Texas State law. Under this agreement, each jurisdiction executed a Notice of Participation and appointed a Hazard Mitigation Coordinator (HMC). The Agreement was later extended to the four additional counties and their municipalities.”