Hazards Planning Center

Integrating Hazard Mitigation into Local Planning

The major question haunting hazard mitigation planning in recent years has been how best to move beyond the serious disconnect that often exists between such planning and other local planning activities.

Hazard Mitigation Report coverThe Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000, which conditions eligibility for hazard mitigation grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) upon a state's or local jurisdiction's official participation in an approved local hazard mitigation plan under the act, has moved many communities forward in thinking about such plans. But there remains considerable room for improvement in tying those plans effectively to daily planning activities in those communities.

The APA Hazards Planning Research Center has produced a Planning Advisory Service Report on best practices in integrating hazard mitigation into all forms of local plan making and planning activities.

FEMA contracted with APA for a 30-month study costing $250,000. FEMA provided $206,000 of this total, with the rest provided by APA through the Planning Advisory Service. The project start date was August 8, 2007. The report, Hazard Mitigation: Integrating Best Practices into Planning is now complete.

What local planning activities could benefit from better integration of hazard mitigation concerns? The study will examine the following for best practices and developing opportunities:

  • Long-range community visioning and goals and objectives activities;
  • Plan making of all types:
    • Comprehensive, master, or general plans;
    • Sub-area plans, such as specific plans, neighborhood plans, corridor plans, and downtown plans;
    • Functional plans, such as plans for sewer, water, transit, housing, and open space;
  • Land-use management tools, such as zoning, subdivision, planned unit development, and form-based codes;
  • Review and approval of development projects;
  • Capital improvements programming, including public investments in infrastructure, public buildings, and facilities.


John Wilson from Lee County, Florida, and Julia Burrows from Roseville, California, discuss how their respective communities created hazard mitigation plans. Roseville and Lee County are two featured case studies in this new Planning Advisory Service report.

The Missing Links

In many communities today, planners have either limited involvement and input into hazard mitigation plans or none at all. In some cases, the plans are the exclusive domain of emergency managers, or in small communities there may be no local planning staff. In other cases, planners may not yet have asserted a role in such planning, sometimes for lack of adequate familiarity with the subject matter.

Planners and emergency managers, in particular, must interact and communicate more in planning and implementing hazard mitigation. Establishing this link is essential if hazard mitigation is to be thoroughly integrated into local planning activities. Most hazard mitigation involves some element of land use or other planning activities, such as economic development, transportation, and historic preservation. Planners can provide vital input as well as assemble other vital input during the process of planning for effective hazard mitigation planning. For example, zoning and open space preservation are frequently essential tools in planning for flood mitigation. Establishing appropriate densities relative to slope is often essential in mitigating landslide hazards. There are many other examples.

To learn what communities have already accomplished in integrating hazard mitigation into planning, and how best to share the lessons from their experiences, APA conducted a survey of best practices over the past two years.

Safe Growth Audits

The October 2009 issue of Zoning Practice examines the need for communities to practice safe growth audits to prevent future growth conflicts.

Read the issue

Symposium on Integrating Hazard Mitigation into Local Planning

On November 1-2, 2007, APA hosted a scoping symposium to explore a number of essential issues in guiding the Integrating Hazard Mitigation into Local Planning project as it moves forward. Invited participants focused on helping APA in:

  • defining the appropriate audiences and scales of activity for the resulting PAS Report;
  • delineating the guiding principles concerning the integration of hazard mitigation into local planning;
  • refining the outline for the PAS Report;
  • identifying gaps in our search of the literature to date;
  • identifying criteria for best practices and actual examples that ought to be studied.

Outline of the symposium discussion

Literature Review and Resource List

Wildland Fire Operations Advisory Committee

Michele Steinberg, Firewise Communities Program Manager, NFPA; Paul Cooper (facilitator); Cheryl Blake (NFPA); James Schwab* (American Planning Association); Sarah McCaffrey* (US Forest Service); Keith Worley* (Forestree Development LLC, Colorado); Nancy Oliver* (Taylor, Florida, Fire Department); Randy Bradley* (Moraga-Orinda, California, Fire District); Brenda O'Connor* (Institute for Business & Home Safety), Chris Heftel* (developer, River Bluff Ranch, Spokane, Washington), David Nuss (Director, NFPA, Wildland Fire Operations Division); Linda Coyle (NFPA).