Hazard Mitigation Plans form the foundation of a community's long-term strategy to break the cycle of disaster damage, reconstruction and repeated damage. Disasters cause loss of life, damage buildings and infrastructure and have devastating consequences for a community’s economic, social, and environmental well-being. The Code of Federal Regulations (44 CFR 201.2) defines hazard mitigation as “sustained action taken to reduce or eliminate long-term risk to people and their property from hazards.” The purpose of mitigation planning is to identify policies and actions, which can be implemented and sustained, to reduce risk and future losses from disasters.
Breaking the Cycle of Destruction
When recurrent disasters such as coastal or riverine flooding take place, and repairs and reconstruction are completed in such a way as to simply restore damaged property to pre-disaster conditions, a cycle of repeated damage and reconstruction can occur. Reconstruction becomes more expensive, as the costs accumulate throughout the years. By undertaking a comprehensive hazard mitigation study to reduce the risks and costs associated with preparing for, responding to and recovering from disasters the expensive cycle of destruction and reconstruction is broken. The implementation of hazard mitigation actions leads to building stronger, safer and smarter communities that are better able to reduce future injuries and damage, recover quickly and rebuild stronger.
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. Mitigation is most effective when it is based on a comprehensive, long-term plan that is developed before a disaster occurs. Mitigation policies and actions are identified by an assessment of hazards, vulnerabilities and risks, and include the participation of a wide range of stakeholders and the public in the planning process.
Countywide Hazard Mitigation Plan
Westchester County, in partnership with Westchester municipalities, has developed a countywide, multi-jurisdictional multi-hazard mitigation plan. The plan identifies and assesses a variety of natural and man-made hazards and describes mitigation strategies and action items to reduce future damages and better prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. This plan is required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for grant funding.
Resources for Planners
The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides many resources for community officials involved in preparing and implementing hazard mitigation plans. In conjunction with the 2015 resiliency workshops, FEMA produced a comprehensive list of resources, including resources specific to Westchester, with hyperlinks to external Web sites and publications. Some of the more pertinent guidance documents and information resources from FEMA for land use planners are listed below.
- Local Mitigation Planning Handbook
- Integrating Hazard Mitigation into Local Planning
- Risk mapping, assessment and planning (RiskMAP)
- Non-regulatory mapping products
The county has produced guidance documents and held workshops associated with hazard mitigation planning, such as:
- Flooding and Land Use Planning: A Guidance Document for Municipal Officials and Planners.
- PowerPoint presentations from a compendium Flood Mitigation Workshop:
The American Planning Association has a hazard mitigation division that provides resources for municipal planners. Among those resources are:
- Hazard Mitigation: Integrating Best Practices into Planning, Planners Advisory Service (PAS) Report #560, available for free download from FEMA
- Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery: Next Generation. Planners Advisory Service (PAS) Report #576, available for free download from FEMA
- Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery: Next Generation. Planners Advisory Service (PAS) Report #576
- Integrating Hazard Mitigation into Local Planning: A Literature Review and Resource List
- Half-day and full-day workshops
- Various PAS reports on specific hazards such as flooding, drought, earthquakes and wildfire
For more information about hazards of concern, emergency preparedness, available resources and training opportunities in Westchester County, visit the Department of Emergency Services Web site.