Hazard Mitigation

Recognize Risks, Develop Actions to Reduce Potential Loss, Prioritize and Implement

Federal Emergency Management Agency, Land Management Agencies, Emergency Responders, US Military

Natural Disasters

Hazard mitigation is a broad scoping approach taken by land managers and emergency responders to identify where and when hazardous conditions are likely to occur, why they may happen, and how to reduce the potential negative impacts of a disaster. The conditions may be seen in the form of landscape level wildfires, watershed flood events, landslides, earth-shaking building destruction, severe weather events, and the human developments built within these risk-prone landscapes. Heavy rains in a region, or wildfires in a forest are not fundamentally hazardous conditions: hazards are perceived when people place themselves in the path of disasters by building homes in a flood zone, by using masonry to build multi-story buildings without sufficient support in an earthquake prone landscape, or by building a log cabin with shake-roofing, nestled into mature forest trees, with a balcony built to surround the tall trees next to the home.

People, structures, infrastructure, economic stability, and the way of life are seated at the heart of determining what conditions create an extreme process and which create a natural disaster. Any natural event can create a disaster situation, but most of these can be predicted, mitigated, and loss of life can be avoided.

This is what we do.

Western Redcedar, royalty of riparian zones

Hazard Mitigation Planning

Federal Hazard Mitigation Planning is a responsibility shared between two federal agencies related by the aspect of reducing the risks to people, places, and infrastructure from natural and man caused disasters. One of those agencies is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The other is the National Fire Plan, created by Congressional order, and administered by the US Departments of Agriculture and Interior, with states, tribes, counties, and organizations, to improve response and resilience in the event of wildland fire. Environmental Resource Analysis works with counties, tribes, states, and agencies to implement hazard risk reduction planning. We work with our clients and stakeholders to develop meaningful, well designed, and effective mitigation measures at a Benefit/Cost trade-off attractive to stakeholders and sponsors.

One strategy we have used, which works excellently, is to integrate the FEMA and the National Fire Plan approaches into a unified hazard mitigation planning document. Although the two programs have slight differences in approach, we have been successful at combining both regulatory frameworks into one planning document. The unified planning document is used by the jurisdiction to justify grant applications, planning approaches, and regulatory consistency to their programs. At the same time, the hybrid planning document reduces costs to the jurisdiction by not duplicating planning efforts of the jurisdiction, or cooperators, to complete the requested planning verification.

While completing a particular planning project for an Indian Tribe concerning salmon habitat enhancement along a river system on their reservation, we collaborated with the county Emergency Management office to address some landslide and flood abatement projects identified in the County Hazard Mitigation Plan approved by FEMA. The enhanced project expanded to include flood mitigation and road infrastructure enhancement measures receiving FEMA funding that was combined with salmon habitat enhancement measures funded through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The combined project implementation profile accomplished more than either plan initially intended, and it cost less than either could have organized if they did it separately. This was a Win-Win scenario at the best levels.

Human Caused Disasters

Terrorism, vandalism, sabotage and defacement of property and resources have been a reality of civilizations since time immemorial. The Terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, changed this reality for Americans and the people of the world. This event was a watershed incident that changed the course of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to change how hazard mitigation assessments were conducted, prioritized, and implemented.

We have made assessments based on potential vulnerability, hardness of targets, potential damages caused directly to an asset, and potential of an attack to provide response distraction to a secondary, but more vulnerable target. These sites have included food supply pre-processing sites, water supply and storage distribution centers, public gathering points with limited ingress and egress routes (concert halls, sporting events). Every potential target is exposed to different vulnerabilities, and the response for each is ultimately unique.

While natural disasters are integrated with natural environmental events, the human caused disasters will sometimes magnify natural processes, like arson of forest and grasslands. Be aware, be cautious, be prepared.

This is what we do.

FEMA Hazard Mitigation Planning

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

FEMA works in a Regional office framework with each state’s program administered by one of the regional offices. Counties work with their state. Tribes have historically been administered through the State’s Homeland Security office before going to the FEMA Regional Office.

Tribes witnessed a change in 2012 as a bill was passed in Congress, and signed by President Obama, to allow tribes to work directly with FEMA’s regional offices. This arrangement includes the ability of a Tribal Chairman to formally declare a disaster from a hazard event, without going through the state’s Governor’s office first. In terms of tribal sovereignty, this represents a significant improvement in tribal-federal relations. It does not mean the tribes will work with FEMA and other federal agencies in isolation from the counties or states, but it does mean that tribes are no longer considered to be “equivalent jurisdictions” with counties.

Hazard Mitigation Plans have taken a few unique titles since 2002 for FEMA. The title “Hazard Mitigation Plan” was and still is used, and today those plans typically include sections for each of the jurisdiction’s hazards, like Flood, Landslide, Seizmic Shaking, or Wildfire. Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plans have been used to accomplish the same results. Since the Healthy Forests Restoration Act (HFRA) was passed, in 2003, stand-alone Community Wildfire Protection Plans have used the same approach as defined by FEMA, but they also satisfy the HFRA requirements.

In all planning efforts, the requisite planning document must be initiated by the jurisdiction’s administration (County Board of Commissioners, State Governor, Tribal Chair), and the planning process must be simultaneously endorsed by FEMA. When the plan is completed, signed by all sub-jurisdiction leaders (City Mayors) and by the jurisdiction’s elected leader, it is reviewed by FEMA and if found to be acceptable, it is authorized to serve as the federal guide for that County or Tribe.

The planning documents serve an important goal to bring all jurisdictions to the hazard assessment evaluation, discuss how the risks would potentially impact people, structures, infrastructure, the economy and way of life. As a jurisdiction, the planning event creates a unified approach to make the jurisdiction safer.

We offer visitors to this site, some examples of County and Tribal Hazard Mitigation Plans completed within the past decade. Some of these files are large (65MB) and all are PDF files. These were reviewed by FEMA, accepted by the Jurisdiction and promoted to the federal record. They are public records that we completed with our clients.

This is what we do.

Hazard Mitigation Plans

Wildfire Hazard Planning, Multijurisdictional Mitigation Plans, Tribal Hazard Mitigation Plans

Analysis Approach

Wildfire 2004

In 2003, we developed a wildfire mitigation plan with a county and all of its incorporated cities and communities. In this county were many homes nestled within forested ecosystems. Part of the risk profile of this county included the Fire Prone Landscapes assessment, discussed on this page (Geospatial – Mapping Hazard Prone Areas). The areas where this accompanying photo were taken were included in the highest risk for the county. Specific mitigation measures included removing surface vegetation from brush and shrubs near homes, reinforcing infrastructure, pruning trees in sensitive areas, increasing ingress and egress route width to accommodate wildland firefighting trucks to use during an emergency. In the plan, approved by FEMA, recommendations were made to replace cedar-shake shingle roofs with composite materials, create defensible space protection between structures and forest vegetation.

The Community Wildfire Mitigation Plan identified means to reduce the resistance to control.

A plan is a great idea that when well-worded and presented is endorsed by people, elected officials, with the state and county concurrence. If the plan is not implemented, it is worthless.

A grass fire ignited in August 2004, within this area, but by the time firefighters arrived, the fire had spread to over 200 acres, destroying 5 homes. By the time the state fire protection agency responded with an aerial attack, the fire had spread to over 10,000 acres taking more homes and other structures with it. No roads were widened, no wildfire home mitigation measures had been made. There was no resistance to control built into the community.

Hazard Mitigation Plan implementation reflects the unique challenges of the jurisdiction, and each community within the governing body. In response to these challenges, it is the desire of associated agencies and organizations to continue the implementation of existing programs that have already provided a level of safety and preparedness in the protection of people, structures, infrastructure, the economy, and traditional way of life and to improve those efforts in the long term.

A series of potential mitigation measures are developed, each in response to specific risks identified in the risk profiles developed. While each activity is presented as a stand-alone project, in reality these projects must be implemented in a holistic approach to hazard mitigation in order to achieve increased protection.

In order to accomplish these programmatic goals, the jurisdiction needs to involve the neighboring jurisdictions to make a meaningful level of preparedness and protection. All risk management activities need to be firmly footed with people who live and work in the area. It might be an Indian Reservation, a City, County or State. Federally, FEMA deals with states, and states deal with counties. Historically, FEMA treated all Indian Reservations as if they were a county, under the authority of States where they are physically located. This was a misplaced arrangement to place Indian Tribes under States: Indian Tribes entered into Treaties with the US Federal Government and are on a peer-relationship with them.

Hot Creek Fire

Emergency Operations Plans

The Comprehensive Emergency Operations Plan (CEOP) is a set of guidelines and procedures developed to assist in the emergency response effort within the jurisdiction. The Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) parallels the National Response Framework (NRF) and incorporates guidance from FEMA as well as lessons learned from emergency responses within the jurisdiction in the past. A Comprehensive Emergency Operations Plan is developed to integrate the guidance of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) within the actualities of the local jurisdiction.

Significant incident response efforts require the coordination of community members, visitors, jurisdiction employees, and emergency responders. These responses are often beyond the scope of normal, day-to-day operations. Emergency responses require situation specific actions depending on the type of emergency, the location of the emergency, and the specific threats to people and resources.

The CEOP provides a set of fundamental preparations that can be applied to a variety of emergency, and non-emergency, situations. These fundamental operation guidelines, when implemented across the operations of the local jurisdiction, and within the communities, will help to save lives and protect property.

In addition to Hazard Mitigation Plans required by FEMA for Tribal and County jurisdictions, D&D Larix has assisted jurisdictions in the development of EOP and CEOP documents. The EOP is an integrated planning document used by County and Tribal Governments to plan, prepare, and implement emergency response when needed.

One goal of FEMA is to develop, in partnership with State, Tribal, and local governments, a national emergency management system that is comprehensive, risk-based, and all-hazard in approach. It establishes a framework that can be implemented locally while providing nation-wide consistency. Crucial to this system is the EOP, which describes who will do what, as well as when, with what resources, and by what authority; before, during, and immediately after an emergency.

These are some of the services we offer our clients. We do it efficiently, comprehensively, and with a history of successful achievement for our clients. You get the benefit of what we have done before, what we have learned from our past and current clients, and how your unique knowledge is integrated into this profile.

Contact us, e-mail, to make an important step forward to protecting the people, structures, businesses and way of life found in your community.

It is good to know where the risks are found, but knowing how to fix problems is priceless.

Mitigation does not wait for the fire to burn, the waters to flood, or the land to slide.

Preparedness Saves Lives.

While conducting risk profiles for natural hazards in this rural area, assessments were made about wildfire, flooding, unstable slopes, and insect infestations (specifically Locusts). The region had been the place of wildfires since time immemorial, and the risks were building as the most recent wildfire had been about 15 years previously. When we visited one of the communities where about 75 families lived, we recorded the photograph shown in this panel: it is the local fire station.

Weeds made evidence that neither the office door to the building, nor the bay-doors to provide egress from the station had been crossed in at least 7 months. No local residents were aware of who the fire chief was, and no one could locate keys to the trucks inside the bay doors. At some point in time, the station was built, fire apparatuses were purchased and placed, and the community had organized a fire district. At that time, wildfires and home fires had not been recorded for about 10 years. The community response to stop paying attention to preparedness issues became a liability.