A mitigation action is a specific action, project, activity, or process taken to reduce or eliminate long-term risk to people and property from hazards and their impacts. Implementing mitigation actions helps achieve the plan’s mission and goals. The actions to reduce vulnerability to threats and hazards form the core of the plan and are a key outcome of the planning process.
Types of Mitigation Actions
The primary types of mitigation actions to reduce long-term vulnerability are:
- Local plans and regulations
- Structural projects
- Natural systems protection
- Education programs
- Preparedness and response actions
Local Plans and Regulations
Local land use or comprehensive plans embody the goals, values and aspirations of the community, as expressed through a process of community engagement (See Task 3: Create an Outreach Strategy). The plan should identify current development patterns and trends as well as areas where future development should and should not occur. The plan should include policies and ordinances that steer development away from hazard-prone areas, such as floodplains, to avoid putting people and property at risk. In some cases, local 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. 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.
Local ordinances and review processes influence the way land and buildings are developed and built. Examples include:
- Comprehensive plans
- Land use ordinances
- Subdivision regulations
- Development review
- Building codes and enforcement
- NFIP Community Rating System
- Capital improvement programs
- Open space preservation
- Stormwater management regulations and master plans
Plans, ordinances, policies and regulations should be mutually reinforcing. All should leave to the development of a more sustainable, resilient community.
Structure and Infrastructure Projects
These actions involve modifying existing structures and infrastructure to protect them from a hazard or remove them from a hazard area. This could apply to public or private structures as well as critical facilities and infrastructure. This type of action also involves projects to construct manmade structures to reduce the impact of hazards. Many of these types of actions are projects eligible for funding through the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance program. Task 9 – Create a Safe and Resilient Community provides more information on these programs. Examples include:
- Acquisitions and elevations of structures in flood prone areas
- Utility undergrounding
- Structural retrofits.
- Floodwalls and retaining walls
- Detention and retention structures
- Safe rooms
The action below, included in Lafayette’s plan, was identified as a best practice because it goes beyond using the standard 100-year floodplain lines to guide development due to past floods that occurred outside of the 100-year floodplain zones.
“Develop local government comprehensive plan overlay districts with higher development standards for areas located outside FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps 100-year flood prone areas which are known to have been flooded during the 2004 hurricanes and the El Nino flood of 1998.”
As seen in the action listed below, Louisville’s plan takes retrofitting a step further by mandating the development of standards for the buildings and the assets within the buildings. The plan also includes clear guidelines for identifying particularly vulnerable buildings.
“Target public earthquake-prone buildings for retrofit. Develop standard for structural sound and asset tie-down and promote purchase of earthquake insurance.”
The action listed below was identified as a best practice because it clearly identifies the rationale for replacing concrete sidewalks with absorbent material and identifies other jurisdictions that have already used Petro-Crete.
“The city will assess the long-term cost benefit of standard use of absorbent building material in place of concrete for sidewalks, parking lots etc. For example Perco-Crete can absorb at least 113 inches of water per hour – up to 18% of its mass — before letting water pass through. Perco-Crete also differs from porous concrete because water passes through Perco-Crete only after saturating it. the cities of Olympia and Everett have tested this product.”
Shoshone County, ID
The action below, excerpted from Shoshone County’s plan, was identified as a best practice because it takes a proactive approach to mitigating damage by retrofitting existing structures.
“Implementation of retrofit, redevelopment, and abatement programs to strengthen existing structures, especially the unreinforced masonry buildings.”
Natural Systems Protection
These are actions that minimize damage and losses and also preserve or restore the functions of natural systems. Examples include:
- Sediment and erosion control
- Stream corridor restoration
- Forest management
- Conservation easements
- Wetland restoration and preservation
Brunswick County, NC
The actions below were identified as best practices because Brunswick County coordinates natural resource protection with existing plans, provides incentives to developers to ensure protections are maintained and is determined to develop a tree preservation ordinance that achieves multiple objectives. Excerpts from the county’s plan are provided below.
“Enhance and develop new public accesses to waterway resources in a manner as to protect sensitive environment areas from development and implement the priority recommendations contained in the Brunswick County Shoreline Access Plan Update.”
“Continue providing density credits for developments that establish perpetual easements for ecologically sensitive lands.”
“Develop a tree preservation ordinance that will address the following:
- Increase buffering along areas of deforestation or clear cutting.
- Provide vegetative medians as a best management plan as highways are expanded or improved when feasible.
- Educate the public of the benefits of controlled burns on “natural areas” certified by professional foresters.”
Roseville was selected as a best practice plan because it mandates the updating of existing regulations to ensure that natural resources are protected in line with the plan’s identified goals and objectives. For example, the plan states that:
“The City shall designate all areas identified as the 100-year floodplain. The boundaries of the 100-year floodplain shall be as specified in the floodplain designations section of this component of the city’s general plan. Floodplain areas shall be preserved as specified in the open space and conservation element. Such preservation may include required dedication to the City. If needed, modify the City’s ordinances to include floodplain use regulations consistent with the goals, policies, and implementation measures of the safety, land use, open space and conservation, and parks and recreation elements of the City’s general plan.”
Roseville also uses innovative, inexpensive and unorthodox methods to achieve natural resource protection such as a goat grazing program.
“Continue “Goat Grazing” program for removal of grassland in areas of Roseville potentially vulnerable to wildfire. Implement goat grazing in City open space and preserve areas for fire and invasive plant species management and native plant restoration.”
Education and Awareness Programs
These are actions to inform and educate citizens, elected officials, and property owners about hazards and potential ways to mitigate them. These actions may also include participation in national programs, such as StormReady1 or Firewise2 Communities. Although this type of mitigation reduces risk less directly than structural projects or regulation, it is an important foundation. A greater understanding and awareness of hazards and risk among local officials, stakeholders, and the public is more likely to lead to direct actions. Examples include:
- Radio or television spots
- Websites with maps and information
- Real estate disclosure
- Presentations to school groups or neighborhood organizations
- Mailings to residents in hazard-prone areas.
- Firewise Communities
El Segundo, CA
El Segundo provides interested citizens with the skills and knowledge to help their neighbors during emergencies, as indicated by the following excerpt:
“Teach Community Emergency Response Teams classes to interested citizens in the city to assist their neighbors during emergencies. This course will be taught throughout the City utilizing the City’s Firefighters.”
Puyallup’s plan includes many excellent education and awareness actions including providing small loans to businesses that take mitigation measures that align with its plan, requiring real estate hazard disclosures and working to organize neighborhood disaster response teams.
“The City will pursue a program of disseminating public information concerning the SBA Pre-Disaster Mitigation Loan Program to relevant groups. The goal is to make low-interest, fixed-rate loans available to small businesses for the purpose of implementing mitigation measures.”
“The City will support a “Natural Hazard Disclosure Statement” requiring the sellers of residential properties to give prospective buyers property-specific hazard information warning them that identified hazards may limit the ability to develop the real property, obtain insurance, or receive post – disaster assistance, and will also advise buyers and sellers that they may wish to obtain professional advice regarding those hazards.”
“Puyallup will continue to support Pierce County’s PC NET Program in the city. PC NET is a neighborhood oriented approach to emergency preparedness. Based on the belief that the most effective way to protect neighborhoods and to prepare for a major disaster must be locally based, it organizes neighborhoods into a variety of disaster response teams, each with a one-page checklist outlining their tasks.”
Seaside ensures that all its disaster mitigation and preparedness materials are available in both English and Spanish.
“Develop materials related to disaster mitigation and preparedness in other languages (such as Spanish).”
Shoshone County, ID
“Post warnings of potentially hazardous areas and educate the public about areas to avoid. Such areas may include (a) existing / old landslides, (b) on or at the base of a slope, (c) in or at the base of a minor drainage hollow, (d) at the base or top of an old fill or steep cut slope, and (e) on developed hillsides where leach field septic systems are used. In addition to identifying these at-risk landscapes, it will also serve to begin an educational dialog with landowners in Shoshone County, enlightening residents and visitors to the risks associated with landslides.”
Preparedness and Response Actions
Mitigation actions reduce or eliminate long-term risk and are different from actions taken to prepare for or respond to hazard events. Mitigation activities lessen or eliminate the need for preparedness or response resources in the future. When analyzing risks and identifying mitigation actions, the planning team may also identify emergency response or operational preparedness actions. Examples include:
- Creating mutual aid agreements with neighboring communities to meet emergency response needs.
- Purchasing radio communications equipment for the Fire Department.
- Developing procedures for notifying citizens of available shelter locations during and following an event.
For some hazards, such as tornadoes, including preparedness actions in the mitigation plan may be necessary and practical. The mitigation plan may be the best place for your community to capture and justify the need for these actions. However, these will not take the place of or meet the federal mitigation planning requirements for identifying mitigation actions. It is important that the planning team understands the difference and can distinguish between mitigation and other emergency management activities.
Baltimore’s Hazard Mitigation Plan is an excellent example of well-connected goals and actions. The plan gives an overview of the importance of the suggested initiative and then lists and explains a comprehensive number of actions that must be implemented in order to meet that goal. The image below, excerpted from the plan, gives an example of a transportation related goal and the respective actions.
Baltimore also prioritizes vulnerable populations in some of its mitigation actions considering vulnerable population’s likelihood of being in more physically vulnerable places, their access to flood insurance and their access to appropriate warning information. Examples of these actions are seen in the plan excerpts below.
Tulsa was chosen as a best practice because it explicitly considers socially vulnerable populations in its emergency response planning process.
“Develop enhanced Emergency Planning for Special Needs populations in the City of Tulsa Emergency Operations Plan and other planning documents. Special Needs populations, (such as people with physical or developmental disabilities, the extremely elderly, people dependent on auxiliary medical equipment, and others) will require additional measures in order to support alerts and warnings, evacuation, and medical response. By working with local advocacy groups, and by identifying weakness and gaps in the City’s emergency planning, the increased capability of the enhanced plan will enable emergency responders to more effectively support the most vulnerable segments of the population.”