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Governor's Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness
7667 Independence Blvd.
Baton Rouge, LA 70806
(225) 925-7500

 

Louisiana
State Hazard Mitigation Plan
Q & A

 

 

The following is provided in response to the consensus opinion of the SHMT during their working session on September 23, 2004. This is considered the first step in a program of providing opportunities for interested parties to become aware of and provide input to the planning process.

What is Louisiana planning for future hurricanes and other natural disasters?

While other storms may still come this year, the hurricane season will end soon and Louisiana is already on the way to recovery from our recent traumatic experiences.  But what are we doing to prepare for future hurricanes and other natural disasters?

What is Louisiana planning for future hurricanes and other natural disasters?

In recent weeks, there have been strong reminders of the devastation that can result from natural disasters. Too many people were killed or injured and estimates of the damage to property are in the hundreds of millions of dollars. This year has been unusual in the number of hurricanes that made landfall but the pattern of damages to the State is well established. 

The State of Louisiana had already experienced 15 Federally declared disasters from 1992 to 2004 before Hurricanes Charley, Francis and Ivan made their presence known. Tropical Storm Allison in June 2001 alone resulted in $69 million in disaster assistance to the State from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. At the time, another $24 million was disbursed under the Federal Disaster Housing Program and with more than 50,000 applicants registered for disaster assistance; the State approved nearly $24.3 million in grants for almost 18,000 households under the Individual and Family Grants programs. Adding $17 million in Small Business Administration loans and $4.6 million in public assistance, Federal and State damage assistance totaled $139 million for this single declared disaster.

The tropical weather systems that spawn tropical storms and hurricanes are not going to suddenly disappear.  But the knowledge and methods exist to lessen the impacts when these storms occur as well as reduce or mitigate the effects of other natural and manmade hazards.  The State of Louisiana has been working for years to share their knowledge and support the methods to mitigate hazards.  This year, the State has embarked on an important step in this process, the development and implementation of a statewide plan for reducing the impacts of natural and manmade hazards; the Louisiana State Hazard Mitigation Plan.

WHAT IS THE LOUISIANA STATE HAZARD MITIGATION PLAN?

Why is the Louisiana State Hazard Mitigation Plan important?

In October 2000, the President signed the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (DMA 2000) into law. Among its many features and supporting regulations, the Act established a requirement (44 CFR Part 201.4) that all States must have a hazard mitigation plan approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) prior to November 1, 2003 in order to remain eligible for many forms of Federal pre- and post-disaster assistance. Although the approval deadline has subsequently been changed to May 1, 2005, the requirement for a hazard mitigation plan remains.

Federal emergency response and recovery operations in the wake of a disaster would not be affected.  But, if the State of Louisiana does not have a hazard mitigation plan approved by the deadline, it will lose eligibility for federal disaster assistance funds that help communities pursue important hazard mitigation activities and funding for restoration of damaged public facilities.  The major impact would be loss of eligibility for Federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funding provided as part of a Presidential Disaster Declaration.  HMGP can be set at 7.5% of the total funding. Therefore, the loss of HMGP eligibility would leave the State unable to apply for millions of dollars in Federal aid at a time when the State and its residents can least afford it.  

What is “hazard mitigation” and “hazard mitigation planning”?

Hazard mitigation is often defined as actions taken to reduce the effects of hazards on a place and its population. Such hazards can include a range of naturally-occurring events, such as floods, severe storms, and earthquakes, and manmade hazards resulting from accidents.

Hazard mitigation planning is the process States and communities undertake to determine what risks they face from natural and manmade hazards and the best ways to reduce or eliminate the potential for loss of life, property damage, and disruption of economic activities The resulting mitigation actions include a wide range of activities and projects, from educating home owners about how to strengthen their homes to the construction of large scale public works projects.

How is a State Hazard Mitigation Plan prepared?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) published an Interim Final Rule (IFR) on February 26, 2002 that was subsequently amended in October of the same year and again in September of this year. The IFR set forth the guidance and regulations under which DMA 2000-compliant State hazard mitigation plans are to be developed. The IFR provides detailed descriptions of the planning process that States and localities are required to observe, as well as the content of the plans that emerge. The Louisiana State Hazard Mitigation Plan is being prepared to directly respond to those requirements.

The State of Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (LHLS/EP) has undertaken the development of the Louisiana State Hazard Mitigation Plan. This plan, which will be formally adopted for the State by Governor Blanco, is being prepared by LHLS/EP with the assistance and cooperation of State Hazard Mitigation Team (SHMT) members representing a range of State agencies and organizations.   

What does the State Hazard Mitigation Plan include?

The State Hazard Mitigation Plan that is being developed by Louisiana includes two major elements, one that meets the need to preserve eligibility and one that can provide increased benefits to the State of Louisiana over time.  These elements are named according to the guidance provided by FEMA as the Standard State Hazard Mitigation Plan and the Enhanced State Hazard Mitigation Program.  The main distinctions between the two elements are as follows:

What is the “Standard State Hazard Mitigation Plan”?

The “Standard Plan” is the element of the overall planning effort that is required to be approved by FEMA by May 1, 2005 to preserve current levels of Federal disaster aid eligibility.  In general terms, the Standard Plan contains:

  •         Vulnerability Assessments identifying the types and impacts of all natural and selected manmade hazards;

  •        Goals and Objectives that reflect the hazards that threaten the State and point toward actions that can be taken to minimize or eliminate the deleterious impacts of these hazards;

  •         Mitigation Action Plan outlining specific activities and actions with a concrete implementation strategy to reduce risk from the identified hazards; and

  •         Plan Maintenance Process specifying how the State of Louisiana will keep the Mitigation Action Plan current and focused on addressing hazards in the most effective manner possible.

In a broad sense, the Standard Plan is intended to identify and implement discrete actions that will reduce the risk of loss of life and property damage in the State of Louisiana and preserve eligibility for existing levels of Federal pre- and post-disaster funding.

What is the “Enhanced State Hazard Mitigation Program”?

The requirements within the DMA 2000 for producing a Standard Plan are obligatory for States to maintain current levels of funding eligibility.  However, the DMA 2000 also included a significant optional incentive for States to also undertake improvements to the way they administer programs related to hazard mitigation.  In basic terms, the Act provided for what is referred to as “Enhanced Program” status for States that met certain performance criteria.  If a state is designated as having an Enhanced Program, the most immediate effect is the amount of money that can be made available for the HMGP increases from 7.5% to 20%, a four-fold increase.  For a State facing the type of natural and manmade hazards such as Louisiana, this is too good an offer to pass up.  Therefore, part of the current planning effort is dedicated to identifying the ways in which Louisiana must upgrade its current hazard mitigation administrative program to attain Enhanced Program status.

In summary, the Enhanced Program portion of the work is intended to identify and implement improvements to the way the State of Louisiana supports and administers hazard mitigation to significantly increase the level of available Federal funding.

What is the status of the planning process?

The SHMT hired a contractor to support the planning process in May 2004 and has held a number of working sessions starting soon thereafter.  These working sessions have included SHMT review and comment primarily about the Standard Plan. However, the current schedule calls for a Preliminary Draft State Hazard Mitigation Plan (including both the Standard Plan and Enhanced Program elements) to be prepared and reviewed by the SHMT in early December.  After that point, review milestones include

  •         Draft State Hazard Mitigation Plan to be prepared for SHMT review by the end of the 2004 calendar year;  

  •         Final Draft State Hazard Mitigation Plan to be ready for a follow-up SHMT review around the end of January 2005; and

  •         Final State Hazard Mitigation Plan to be submitted for FEMA review and approval at the end of February / beginning of March 2005.

Under DMA 2000, FEMA has up to 45 days to review the Final Draft with the expectation that their review will be done in early to mid April 2005 leaving the rest of April to address any final comments and have the Governor  formally adopt the plan in time for FEMA approval prior to May 1, 2005.

What are the opportunities for interested parties to provide input for the Plan?

The planning process and review milestones identified above reflect a tight schedule.  However, the SHMT is interested in getting comments and input from any and all interested parties.  In some cases, the interested parties are State and Federal agencies and the SHMT members has been looking into ways to solicit and incorporate information and ideas from these other agencies.  However, the SHMT is also aware that there are interested parties outside of State and Federal agencies who want the opportunity to review work-in-progress documents and provide their opinions and the benefit of their experiences. At a recent working session, the SHMT decided that they would make a Draft version of the State Hazard Mitigation Plan available as soon as practical after they review the Preliminary Draft in early December. 

This Draft version of the Plan will be made available on this website and the release date will be provided as soon as the SHMT and LHLS/EP can determine a date with certainty.  At that time, the method and time available for review and commentary will be identified but generally, the goal is to provide as much as 30 days for interested parties to download the document and provide comments and suggestions for improvements.

It is worth noting in this regard that one of the requirements of DMA 2000 for Standard State Hazard Mitigation Plans is that they be regularly updated on a three year cycle.  The SHMT is also interested in developing ways that interested parties can continue to contribute and support future updates of the plan.  The point is that even though opportunities for input into this initial planning cycle are not as extensive as all parties might prefer, there is a commitment to providing opportunities for on-going participation in supporting hazard mitigation in Louisiana after this initial deadline is met in May of 2005.
 

 
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Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

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