hazard mitigation planning

What is Hazard Mitigation Planning?

Hazard mitigation planning is an essential tool used to prepare communities for potential disasters in order to minimize losses of life and property with an overall goal of making communities eligible for mitigation project funding. Living in a state which experiences earthquakes, flood, erosion, tsunamis, weather extremes, wildfires, and volcanic eruptions, Alaskans witness nearly the entire spectrum of fury which nature can produce, and thus proper hazard mitigation is crucial in safeguarding the population as much as possible. Because of Alaska’s massive size, different regions of the state experience varying intensities of different hazards and hazard mitigation planning is tailored to the needs of specific communities, taking place at state, tribal, and local levels. A hazard mitigation plan approved by FEMA and adopted by a community opens up potential funding avenues for hazard mitigation projects, such as retrofitting homes to be more resistant to earthquake damage or moving a particular facility away from a hazard-prone area.

The Planning Process

The process begins with the community establishing a hazard mitigation planning team, consisting of local government officials and/or tribal council members, students, and elders with historical knowledge of the region. Fairweather Science meets with the planning team and explains the hazard mitigation planning process as well as the benefits of having a plan in place. The drafting of the plan begins with research as well as data collection directly from the planning team and other residents regarding which hazards the community experiences, including the frequency and magnitude of events, and historical records of the impacts caused by these events. Once a description, the history, magnitude, and impacts of each hazard are analyzed and integrated into the report, an inventory of critical facilities, infrastructure, and residences is tabulated, and potential losses created by a future "total loss" catastrophic event are estimated. Potential losses and damages are also estimated according to specific hazards and locations. For example, specific facilities or residences in a particular community may experience erosion and flooding, while others may be prone to subsidence and landslides.

Once these steps are completed the draft risk assessment is prepared for community review. Based on the risk assessment results, the hazard mitigation planning team presents their top three hazards of concern as well as their ideas for potential hazard mitigation projects. Fairweather Science then incorporates these projects and researches additional proposals, pertaining to multiple hazards as well as projects addressing each specific hazard, drafting a brief qualitative benefit/cost analysis, estimating project timeframes, and researching specific grants which a community may be able to pursue in order to fund each mitigation project.

After the mitigation strategy is completed and prioritized, the draft hazard mitigation plan is completed for public review. Comments are then incorporated into the final plan and it is submitted for review and approval by the State and FEMA. Hazard Mitigation Plans are required to be adopted by the community or Tribe, and adoption resolutions are a requirement for final FEMA approval. In some cases, it may be recommended to adopt before submitting to FEMA.