Friday, March 8, 2013

Hazard Mitigation Planning

Land use planning can get thrown for a loop where planners fail to adequately account for potential natural or man-made human- caused disasters (although I don’t generally accept the differences we draw between what we consider to be natural versus human-caused, as though perhaps humans are unnatural?). Researchers at the University of Idaho (home of co-blogger Stephen Miller) have been examining local hazard mitigation plans. A forthcoming article in Applied Geography describes hazard mitigation planning and presents a rubric for assessing such plans in both development and implementation. I am particularly intrigued by their findings that urban areas focus on prevention and rural areas on response. Interesting correlation perhaps with perceived resiliencies of those environments?

Tim G. Fraziera, Monica H. Walkerb, Aparna Kumaric, & Courtney M. Thompson, Opportunities and Constraints to Hazard Mitigation Planning, 40 Applied Geography, 52 (2013).

ABSTRACT: Hazard mitigation plans (HMPs) play a critical role in the reduction of societal loss from natural and human-caused hazards and disasters. The occurrence of hazardous events cannot be prevented but hazard mitigation planning when diligently applied has proven to be an effective tool for enhancing local community resilience and reducing societal losses. HMPs are planning documents that aim to increase community preparedness and resiliency, and decrease vulnerability in the event of a hazard. However, due to a variety of reasons many communities often fail to address criteria that could protect against future societal losses. For instance, minimum requirements, as stipulated by the Disaster Mitigation Act 2000, are all that is needed to qualify for federal mitigation grant funding regardless of plan quality or appropriateness of HMPs to local hazards and risks. Additionally local emergency managers and planners also face constraints like integration of HMPs into comprehensive plans and a standardized tool to evaluate plan quality. In essence most communities in the US have HMPs but lack a method of evaluating the quality and effectiveness of their plans for mitigating hazards. Building on the standard HMP minimum requirements, additional criteria established in prominent hazard literature, and information culled from interviews, this study develops an evaluation matrix to assess local HMP quality. Based on the factors mentioned above, researchers explored the opportunities and constraints to HMP development faced by jurisdictions within our Western Washington study area. Conclusions reveal that available resources, level of sophistication, and political complexities affect the quality of HMP development and the actual implementation of mitigation planning strategies.

Jessica Owley

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