State Laws and Natural Hazards

APA has completed its fifth annual update of a study for the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) that examines state land-use planning laws, both generally and in regard to their specific provisions for addressing natural hazards through state and local land-use planning. The updated study is one of two on which APA has collaborated in recent years with IBHS.

Some cities, towns, counties, and districts consider the effects of floodwaters, ground shaking, and other hazards when administering development regulations. Others do not. To find out which communities are incorporating natural hazards into local plans, IBHS conducted some research.

First, in 1998 IBHS developed a Summary of State Land Use Planning Laws. This document provides an overview of the nation's complex system of regulation for land use and development as it pertains to consideration of natural hazards. IBHS discovered that only a few states provide overall support for planning laws that take the effects of natural hazards into account.

Next, with help from the American Planning Association and the American Institute of Certified Planners, the IBHS Land Use Planning Committee developed the Community Land Use Evaluation for Natural Hazards Questionnaire. The questionnaire includes suggested policy and plan elements that can help communities do a better job in protecting lives and property from future damages. IBHS used it to survey nearly 1,500 municipal-level planners in the spring of 2001.

In 2002, IBHS engaged APA to update the 1998 summary of planning laws. APA Senior Research Associate James Schwab, AICP, presented his findings at the annual conference of the Association of State Floodplain Managers in Phoenix, Arizona, on June 25, 2002. The study was updated annually through 2009 to reflect more recent changes enacted by state legislatures.