What is Hazard Mitigation?

Hazard mitigation is an action to help reduce long-term risks caused by hazards or disasters, such as flooding, earthquakes, or wildfires. The purpose of hazard mitigation is to protect people and structures, and minimize the costs of disaster response and recovery. Hazard mitigation can take many forms: capital projects, policies, education, and environmental protection.

Proactive mitigation leads to more cost-effective projects. By contrast, reactive mitigation, tends to lead to severe damage and often more costly fixes; it simply costs too much to address the effects of disasters only after they happen. A surprising amount of damage can be prevented if we can anticipate where and how disasters occur, and take steps to prevent those damages.

What is a Hazard Mitigation Plan?
A hazard mitigation plan (HMP) is “the representation of the jurisdiction’s commitment to reduce risks from natural hazards, serving as a guide for decision makers as they commit resources to reducing the effects of natural hazards” (44 CFR 201.6). HMPs establish and maintain eligibility for grant funds. The planning process is as important as the plan itself because it creates a framework for governments to reduce the negative impacts from future disasters on lives, property, and the economy.

Hazard mitigation planning can significantly reduce the physical, financial, and emotional losses caused by disasters. The Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 is federal legislation that establishes a pre-disaster hazard mitigation program and new requirements for the national post disaster Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). It encourages and rewards state and local pre-disaster planning and promotes sustainability. Completion of an HMP will result in more effective risk reduction projects and in a faster and more efficient allocation of funding.

Hazard Mitigation Breaks the Cycle
When recurrent disasters, such as riverine flooding, take place, repeated damage and reconstruction can occur. This reconstruction becomes more expensive as the years go by. Hazard mitigation breaks this expensive cycle of repetitive damage and increasing reconstruction costs by taking a long-term view of rebuilding and recovering from disasters.

What Are the Benefits?
There are numerous benefits to participating in the HMP, including:

  • Awareness of risk and vulnerabilities
  • Identification of implementable strategies and funding sources
  • Reduction of hazard impacts (save lives, property, and the local economy)
  • Creates partnerships and develops comprehensive approaches that enhance project grant funding opportunities
  • Pooling of resources and reducing their level of effort while avoiding duplication of effort
  • Creation of more resilient communities – bounce back from disasters faster!

What Types of Mitigation Techniques Can Be Employed?
Hazard mitigation actions are commonly broken into four different categories:

  • Local Plans and Regulations (LPR) – These actions include government authorities, policies or codes that influence the way land and buildings are being developed and built.
  • Structure and Infrastructure Project (SIP) – 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.
  • Natural Systems Protection (NSP) – These are actions that minimize damage and losses, and also preserve or restore the functions of natural systems.
  • Education and Awareness Programs (EAP) – These are actions to inform and educate citizens, elected officials, and property owners about hazards and potential ways to mitigate them.

Common mitigation actions that are taken include:

  • Enforcement of building codes, floodplain management codes, and environmental regulations
  • Public safety measures such as continual maintenance of roadways, culverts, and dams
  • Acquisition or relocation of structures, such as purchasing buildings located in a floodplain
  • Acquisition of hazard prone lands in their undeveloped state to ensure they remain so
  • Retrofitting structures and design of new construction such as elevating a home or building
  • Protecting critical facilities and infrastructure from future hazard events
  • Mitigation, disaster recovery, and Continuity of Operations (COOP) planning
  • Development and distribution of outreach materials related to hazard mitigation
  • Deployment of warning systems
  • Drainage system upgrades