Hazard Mitigation Planning Requirements

Mitigation is the most effective when it is based on a comprehensive, long-term plan that is developed before a disaster occurs. The purpose of mitigation planning is to identify local policies and actions that can be implemented over the long term to reduce risk and future losses from hazards. These mitigation policies and actions are identified based on assessments of hazards, vulnerabilities and risks and the participation of a wide range of stakeholders and the public in the planning process.

Benefits of mitigation planning include:

  • Identifying actions for risk reduction that are agreed upon by stakeholders and the public
  • Focusing resources on the greatest risks and vulnerabilities
  • Building partnerships by involving citizens, organizations and businesses
  • Increasing education and awareness of threats and hazards, as well as their risks
  • Communicating priorities to State and Federal officials
  • Aligning risk reduction with other community objectives

Mitigation Planning Requirements

Section 322 of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000, specifically addresses mitigation planning and requires state and local governments to prepare multi-hazard mitigation plans as a precondition for receiving FEMA mitigation funds for the following programs:  Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), Pre Disaster Mitigation  (PDM) and  Flood Mitigation Assistance  (FMA).The Code of Federal Regulations 44(CFR) § 201 provides guidance for Local, State and Tribal Hazard Mitigation Planning.

Who needs a plan?

Mitigation plans are important at both the local and State levels. They represent a jurisdiction’s commitment to an all-hazards approach to risk reduce. They guide decision making as resources are allocated to reduce the effects of hazards.

State, Indian Tribal, and local governments are required to develop a hazard mitigation plan as a condition for receiving certain types of non-emergency disaster assistance.

Local HM plans are typically developed at the Parish level in Louisiana and may be reflective of multi-jurisdictional planning or be the result of planning efforts of municipalities, schools or others at the local level.

A whole community approach to hazard mitigation planning recognizes that government alone is not enough to meet the challenges of building safer, stronger and more resilient communities. To be maximally effective, planning teams must be inclusive and identify and leverage all resources, including those from the Federal level; local, State, Tribal and Territorial partners; non-government organizations (NGOs); and the private-sector industry, individuals, families and communities.

The mitigation plan belongs to the local community. While FEMA has the authority to approve plans in order for local governments to apply for mitigation project funding, there is no required format for the plan’s organization. When developing the mitigation plan, keep the following guiding principles in mind: 

  • Focus on the mitigation strategy - The mitigation strategy is the plan’s primary purpose. All other sections contribute to and inform the mitigation strategy and specific hazard mitigation actions.  
  • Process is as important as the plan itself - In mitigation planning, as with most other planning efforts, the plan is only as good as the process and people involved in its development. The plan should also serve as the written record, or documentation of the planning process.  
  • This is your community’s plan - To have value, the plan must represent the current needs and values of the community and be useful for local officials and stakeholders. Develop the mitigation plan in a way that best serves your community’s purpose and people.

The planning process is as important as the plan itself. It creates a framework for risk-based decision making to reduce damages to lives, property and the economy from future disasters.  

Six Phases of Mitigation Planning

  • Establish Planning Team
  • Develop Risk Assessment
  • Develop Capabilities Assessment
  • Finalize Mitigation Strategy
  • Plan Review and Adoption
  • Plan Maintenance and Updates
  • Phase 1: Establish a Planning Team - Building a planning team is the beginning of the planning process. Members should include representatives from each jurisdiction, have the expertise to develop the plan and their organizations should have the authority to implement the plan.
  • Phase 2: Risk Assessment - The risk assessment is developed to determine the potential impacts of hazards to the people, economy, and built and natural environments of the community. The risk assessment also provides the foundation for the mitigation strategy which is focused on identifying and prioritizing actions to reduce risk to hazards. It can also be used to establish emergency preparedness and response priorities, land use and comprehensive planning, and for decision making by elected officials, city and parish departments, businesses and organizations in the community.
  • Phase 3: Capability Assessment - The Capability Assessment describes the community’s unique set of existing authorities, policies, programs and resources available to accomplish mitigation. By reviewing the existing capabilities in each jurisdiction, the planning team can identify capabilities that currently reduce disaster losses or could be used to reduce losses in the future.
  • Phase 4: Mitigation Strategy - Comprised of mitigation goals and actions the Mitigation Strategy is the heart of the mitigation plan. Mitigation goals are general guidelines that explain what the community wants to achieve with the plan. They are usually broad policy-type statements that are long-term and represent visions for reducing or avoiding losses from the identified hazards. Mitigation actions are specific projects and activities that help achieve the goals. Examples of Actions are: Elevate Repetitive Loss Properties, construct a community Safe room, minor Drainage Project, implement a Community Education Outreach Program.
  • Phase 5: Plan Review and Adoption - Once the planning team is confident the plan meets the required elements it is submitted to the GOHSEP Planning Department for review. GOHSEP will review the plan and work with the planning team to make any revisions to the plan if necessary. Once GOHSEP is satisfied the plan meets the requirements, it will be forwarded to FEMA Region VI Regional Office for review. Once FEMA determines the plan meets the regulations, the plan will be given approvable pending adoption (APA) status by FEMA. The plan will not receive final approval status until FEMA receives documentation of formal adoption by the governing body of all participating jurisdictions in the plan.
  • Phase 6: Plan Maintenance and Update - Plan Maintenance is the process the planning team establishes to track the plan’s implementation progress and to inform the plan update. The plan must include a description of the method and schedule for monitoring, evaluating and updating it with in the five year cycle.

These procedures help to:

  • Ensure that the mitigation strategy is implemented according to the plan
  • Provide the foundation for an ongoing mitigation program in your community
  • Standardize long-term monitoring of hazard-related activities
  • Integrate mitigation principles into community officials’ daily job responsibilities and department roles
  • Maintain momentum through contoured engagement and accountability in the plan’s progress

Local jurisdictions – as well as the State – must evaluate and monitor their HM plan to reflect changes in development progress and in priorities. These updates provide the opportunity to re-evaluate how well the procedures established in the previously approved plan worked, assess the progress made on identified mitigation activities and revise them as needed. Local governing authorities must update their HM plans every five (5) years to continue eligibility for mitigation project funding.

Mitigation planning: Laws, Regulations, Guidance and Policies

There are laws, regulations, guidance and policy for developing hazard mitigation plans and that provide information on FEMA mitigation planning regulations. If you are a hazard mitigation planner, emergency management professional and/or community official at the local, State or Tribal level, you need to know about each.

Requirements and procedures for local, State and Tribal mitigation plans are found in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at Title 44, Chapter 1, Part (44 CFR Part 201). 

The FEMA publications listed below are the official guidance for local, State and Tribal governments to meet the requirements of mitigation planning regulations under the Stafford Act and 44 CFR Part 201.

  • Local Mitigation Planning Handbook (Handbook) .The Handbook is the official guide for local governments to develop, update and implement local mitigation plans to meet the regulatory requirements for FEMA approval and eligibility to apply for FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA)  grant programs.
  • Local Mitigation Planning Guide (October 1, 2011) (Guide). The Guide is the official guidance for Federal and State officials responsible for reviewing local mitigation plans.
  • State Multi-Hazard Mitigation Planning Guidance  (January 2008) (effective through 3/5/16) FEMA developed the State Mitigation Planning “Blue Book” to help States develop, update and implement understand the FEMA mitigation planning regulations specific to State Plans as cited in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at Title 44, Chapter 1, Part 201 (44 CFR Part 201).
  • State Mitigation Plan Review Guide ("Guide") (effective 3/6/16) The Guide will replace the State Multi-Hazard Mitigation Planning Guidance as the official guide for developing State Hazard Mitigation Plans.
  • Tribal Multi-Hazard Mitigation Planning Guidance The Tribal Guidance assists Indian Tribal governments and other tribal entities to develop hazard mitigation plans compliant with specific needs of Tribal Plans found in the 44 CFR 201.7. 

FEMA policies are external, authoritative statements that articulate FEMA's intent and direction to guide decision-making and achieve rational outcomes for agency activities. Policies include:

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