Use the Post-Disaster Window of Opportunity
The post-disaster recovery period offers unique opportunities to accomplish mitigation goals. Public support and political will to change policies and invest in long-term risk reduction may be at its highest. In addition, funding sources may become available for mitigation, such as FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) and Public Assistance (PA) Section 406 funding described in the Funding and Resources section that follows. A strong mitigation plan can help your community be prepared to take advantage of the funding and resources. Incorporation of mitigation strategies into either a pre-disaster or post-disaster recovery plan reinforces the linkage of long-term risk reduction and community resilience.
In a post-disaster environment, significant reinvestments in infrastructure and development are often made during a relatively short timeframe. The mitigation plan can help guide those efforts to create a community that is more resilient to future disasters. Here are some questions to consider and take full advantage of the post-disaster window of opportunity for mitigation:
- How can disaster funds be used to implement actions in the mitigation strategy?
- How can the planning team take advantage of the public’s risk awareness due to the disaster events?
- How can the disaster effects influence future land use decisions to work toward mitigation goals?
- What local mitigation capabilities need to be strengthened based on lessons learned?
Post-disaster implementation also presents challenges. Local priorities may be limited to building back quickly, rather than safely, or communities may face strained capacity or capability as local officials address other post-disaster priorities. Increased mitigation funding and technical assistance from state and Federal sources after a disaster can help offset these challenges. The recovery process should ensure that mitigation priorities, as outlined in the plan, are actively applied to reinvestment decisions.
Focus on Quality over Quantity
As you move forward with transitioning from plan development to plan implementation, it is important to achieve a few “early wins,” or successfully complete some initial mitigation actions. These could be low-cost actions that can be implemented quickly or a single high-priority project. Demonstrating progress can go a long way in gaining the support needed to implement more complex actions in the future.
Develop Strong Messaging
Some actions may require greater effort to gain political backing or public support to implement, particularly those that require local financial and/or administrative commitments or those that generate opposition from competing interests. You will need to make a convincing and long-lasting case for mitigation. For each proposed action, you should be prepared to clearly and succinctly explain how well the action can meet additional standards or “selling points,” such as:
- The action is economically viable and contributes towards your community’s long-term resilience and sustainability.
- The action can be completed efficiently using staff time and coordination among departments, or in the case of required financial commitments, is a wise and cost-effective expenditure.
- The action will reduce the overall community risk.
- The action achieves multiple objectives that go beyond increasing overall safety (such as social, economic, or environmental benefits).
- The action is supported by a broad array of stakeholders, including intergovernmental or public-private partnerships.
- The action has a local champion to ensure its completion and success.
Encourage Local Champions
Successful projects often involve a strong local champion. Champions are leaders who understand the mitigation vision, can clearly communicate it, and can engage others to get buy-in. Spreading out the responsibility for mitigation activities to a variety of champions increases the likelihood of a successful mitigation program. Enlist the support of external partners that can provide additional leverage for promoting projects, including local businesses and other stakeholders.
Identify a Mentor
Community officials can learn from other communities that have successfully implemented mitigation actions. Other communities may be willing to share their experiences and lessons learned. Consult the FEMA Best Practices Portfolio or your State Hazard Mitigation Officer (SHMO) for contacts in other communities who can provide ideas and advice.