By Charles Penland
Many coastal communities have planning mechanisms — a planning commission, a capital improvements plan, a comprehensive plan — but are missing an opportunity to move related projects forward by partnering with hospitals, universities, school districts, and other critical support facilities.
Hurricane Ike in 2008 nearly closed down the City of Galveston and wiped out the community of Gilchrist on the Bolivar Peninsula of Texas. A recent earthquake was recorded in Southern California, and a tornado hit Mississippi in April. None of these events gave infrastructure managers enough time to forestall attributable damages. But those with a hazard mitigation action plan (HMAP) responded more effectively and, in some cases, had taken measures that minimized overall damage to assets.
The Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 encourages cities, counties, and states to take a risk-based approach to damage reduction by making Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)-approved local mitigation plans eligible for grants under the agency's hazard mitigation assistance programs. Underscoring the agency's philosophy of state and local cooperation during disasters, local plans are developed with the help of state FEMA representatives and then added to the state's plan once approved by the agency.
Five ways to pay for writing a disaster plan
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides grants to plan for — and recover from — disasters such as hurricanes and floods based on a proposed project's merit. For events that occured in fiscal year 2009:Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP): gives states up to 15% of the total disaster grants awarded by FEMA per eventPre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) grant program: $90 millionSevere Repetitive Loss (SRL) program: $80 millionFlood Mitigation Assistance (FMA): $35.7 millionRepetitive Flood Claims (RFC): $10 million
The first major catastrophe after the act went into effect was Tropical Storm Allison one year later. At FEMA's urging, nonprofit organizations nationwide developed a plan and became eligible for disaster mitigation grants. As cities and counties bring local nonprofits into their plans, the eligibility for additional programs increases for the nonprofits — improving the chances for a successful grant application and expanding future infrastructure opportunities.
For example, the Texas Medical Center — the largest center in the world — is the heart of disaster healthcare response for the western Gulf Coast. After Tropical Storm Allison, FEMA staff on the ground encouraged nonprofit institutions damaged by the storm to develop a mitigation plan (see sidebar on this page). The process requires each institution to consider itself as a community, since that was the basis of the program.