August 12, 2010

Making Communities More Resilient

Is your community prepared if a disaster strikes?

CHICAGO — The American Planning Association's new Planning Advisory Service report, Hazard Mitigation: Integrating Best Practices into Planning, identifies how communities can become more resilient and safer from the impacts of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and other natural and manmade disasters.

Hazard Mitigation report coverThe report was written and edited by top disaster mitigation experts with national and international disaster recovery experience including editor James C. Schwab, AICP, and contributors Kenneth C. Topping, FAICP, and David R. Godschalk, FAICP.

The report emphasizes four key objectives:

1. Integrating hazard planning into comprehensive and other local plans.

2. Coordinating hazard planning efforts with various stakeholders such as emergency managers, planners, elected and appointed officials, and public works employees.

3. Increasing community resiliency to reduce its vulnerability to disasters.

4. Using planning implementation tools to achieve hazard mitigation goals.

The report also highlights disaster mitigation and hazard planning best practices from six localities from around the country:

  • Lee County, Florida: The county's Joint Unified Local Mitigation Strategy is a model of regional hazard mitigation planning combining mitigation efforts of the county and its five municipalities. The strategy also was integrated into the comprehensive plan and is an example of prioritizing and implementing mitigation initiatives.
  • Charlotte–Mecklenburg County, North Carolina: The county developed a hazard mitigation plan and pioneered in examining future flood risks from full build-out under existing land-use codes. It is a leader in mitigating the impacts of flooding by educating, involving and assisting constituents in reshaping settlement patterns to avoid high-risk flood zones.
  • Roseville, California: The Sacramento suburb is an example of using local capacity to build and sustain disaster resilience through the support of state and federal laws and requirements, all while maintaining community character. The Roseville Hazard Mitigation Plan addresses both natural and human-caused disasters and is integrated into the city's general plan. The city was the first to achieve Class I status under FEMA's Community Rating System, lowering residents' flood insurance rates by 45 percent as a result.
  • Berkeley, California: The city's general plan and its closely linked Disaster Mitigation Plan provide a foundation for mitigation and a logical sequence of prioritized action. Berkeley has accomplished significant disaster-risk reduction and engaged multiple stakeholders to take responsibility without altering the unique character of the community.
  • Bourne, Massachusetts: Economic development was a motivating factor for addressing potential hazards since businesses were hesitant to locate downtown because of the potential for flooding. The flood-hazard mitigation report helped identify vulnerable areas and determine cost-effective efforts to mitigate those hazards.
  • Morgan County, Utah: The county established hazard mitigation efforts in an area with a limited tax base and minimal staff while minimizing mitigation program costs. The mitigation efforts use a variety of tools to address building in known hazard areas without jeopardizing property owners' rights.

Hear from John Wilson from Lee County, Florida, and Julia Burrows, formerly with Roseville, California, discuss how their respective communities established hazard mitigation practices.

Hazard Mitigation: Integrating Best Practices into Planning emphasizes that the most effective approach is to include hazards in routine planning activities. The report stresses that successful mitigation efforts are not achieved independently of other planning activities and communities should not wait until an actual disaster strikes.

The Hazard Mitigation report was supported by the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA). It is available through for $60 ($30 for APA members).

A complimentary review copy is available for members of the media. Contact Roberta Rewers at


Roberta Rewers, APA, 312-786-6395;