Task 4 Requirements

Element C1

The plan shall include a mitigation strategy that provides the jurisdiction’s blueprint for reducing the potential losses identified in the risk assessment, based on existing authorities, policies, programs, and resources, and its ability to expand on and improve these existing tools.

Element C2

The hazard mitigation strategy shall address each jurisdiction’s participation in the NFIP and continued compliance with NFIP requirements, as appropriate.

Element A4

The planning process shall include the review and incorporation, if appropriate, of existing plans, studies, reports, and technical information.

The previous three tasks in the Handbook focused on the process of mitigation planning, including who must be involved and how to involve them. Beginning with Task 4, the remaining tasks describe what is accomplished during the planning process. Task 4 describes the critical step of assessing your community’s existing authorities, policies, programs, and resources available to mitigate the risks of disasters.

A capability assessment assists in determining the ability of a local jurisdiction to implement a mitigation strategy. Additionally, it can identify potential opportunities for implementing or improving specific mitigation policies or programs. A capability assessment identifies which goals, objectives, and actions are feasible for a given jurisdiction. A strong capability assessment identifies which mitigation actions are realistic and/or practical to implement over time based on the political climate and level of, technical, administrative, and fiscal resources.

Capability assessments also look at other existing plans the community has adopted such as land use or comprehensive plans and capital improvement plans.  In some cases, these plans can work at cross purposes.  For example, a capital improvement plan may call for extending water and sewer lines to an area that is vulnerable to natural hazards, such as a floodplain.  Emergency managers, planners and others in a community should coordinate in preparing plans to ensure consistency across plans; that is, consistent goals, policies, and strategies.

Previous FEMA guidance did not adequately describe the requirements for a capability assessment in local hazard mitigation plans.  FEMA requires that “a plan must describe each jurisdiction’s existing authorities, policies, programs, and resources available to accomplish hazard mitigation” (44 CFR, Part 201.6(c) (3)), and the FEMA Handbook now includes better guidance on this requirement. Because of this, many pre-2012 hazard mitigation plans contain very weak capability assessments or none at all.

In our evaluation of 175 local hazard mitigation plans, we found that most capability assessment were weak.  Typically, the plans provided a description of federal programs that support local mitigation efforts, but said little about state and local capabilities.  Among the local capabilities, the plans focused more on emergency services (e.g. evacuation, sheltering and maintain communications and utilities in an event), and less on preventative land use approaches (e.g. controlling permitted land uses and density)”.

The best practices included:

These examples provide a framework for exceeding the basic FEMA requirements to create a strong capability assessment that will help guide a realistic and feasible mitigation strategy given available resources and capacity.