Natural Hazard Mitigation Association
Doing More with Less:
Mitigation in a Changing Environment
2012 International Hazard Mitigation Practitioners Workshop
July 17-18, 2012
Omni Interlocken Resort
Broomfield, Colorado

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Session Title:  Plenary 1: Doing More with Less: Mitigation in a Changing Environment

Date/Time:  Tuesday, July 17, 2012                 4:45-6:15 p.m.


  • Dennis S.  Mileti, Professor Emeritus, University of Colorado-Boulder


  •  Marco F.  Cocito-Monoc, Director of Regional Initiatives, Greater New Orleans Foundation
  • Deborah Ingram, Assistant Administrator, Recovery Directorate, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
  • Mike Kline, Rivers Program Manager, VT Dept of Environmental Conservation
  • Dave Miller, Associate Administrator, Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (FIMA), FEMA, DHS


  • Lynne M.  Carter, Associate Director, Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program and Coastal Sustainability Studio, Louisiana State University

Dennis Mileti, session moderator, opened by highlighting the increases in disaster events every year, economic losses on the rise, and demographic, social, environmental, and climatic shifts occurring, as we continue living in vulnerable areas.  He charged the speakers to address the issue of doing more with less with a version of a Winston Churchill remark – “Friends there is no money, we will have to think!”  Each speaker was asked to address:Mitigation Challenges, Mitigation Needs, and Mitigation Successes.


Marco F.  Cocito-Monoc:

Mitigation Challenges:

  • Coastal wetland loss: every 38 minutes Louisiana loses a football field size of wetlands due to many factors including: oil and gas canals, pumping of water and other liquids, sea level rise, and subsidence.
  • Place-based living/staying: there are many reasons that people stay in vulnerable coastal areas including: access to livelihood, e.g., fisheries, poverty–thus inability to move–and community.
  • Fear of the implications of change: for example, St.  Bernard Parish, even after the devastation of recent hurricanes and levee failures continues to allow houses built slab-on-grade because they are afraid that residents could not afford to return if they require more.

Mr. Cocito-Monoc said the Louisiana State Coastal Master Plan is updated every five years and the newest requires $50 billion over 50 years, to undertake actions already identified to protect some portions of the coast.  He said the BP spill funds that are allocated to this funding are reduced for Louisiana as they need to be shared with the other impacted states of Mississippi and Texas.  He added that the Coastal Master Plan is criticized for its perfunctory inclusion of public input.

Mitigation Needs:

  • For the Louisiana Coastal Master Plan: better public input process, e.g., include the Houma Nation
  • Large sediment and river diversions for coastal restoration
  • More resilient housing, e.g., no more slab-on-grade
  • Implement multiple layers of coastal protection
  • Be honest about what can and cannot be done to protect the coast and specific locations and at what cost and to whom.
  • Better cooperation among those working on coastal issues and making use of the connections already in place.  Develop an online tool for coordination among state, local, academic organizations and others.
  • Better cooperation and cooperative planning among coastal parishes, e.g., the “5 + 1” program (five coastal parishes and New Orleans).

Mitigation Successes:

  • Water challenge – an award from Tulsa Partners to develop an integrated water management effort
  • Based on Dutch examples that could lead to the creation of a private industry on water
  • Management, and the focus of government on new options.
  • 5+1 program with a focus on community engagement to bring in more public input
  • Transportation volunteers
  • Three community foundations helping to determine community needs and address them:  St.  Bernard Community Foundation, Jefferson Community Foundation, and Plaquemines Community Foundation.


Deborah Ingram

Mitigation Challenges:

  • Mitigation needs to become part of the recovery process.  There is great need to develop a risk-conscious culture with influence at the community level and recognition of how risks change after an event.  What is sustainable for the long-run?  Consider how decisions impact others and vise-versa.
  • Recognize that climate change is already impacting us and consider how the climate will change in the future and how the impacts will also continue to change.
  • Post-disaster: the present practice of building quickly versus building smartly.  Need to rethink what to do and how.

Mitigation Needs:

  • Need to demonstrate and communicate the 4:1 ratio ($4 benefits for every $1 in pre-disaster efforts) and develop other ways to put this benefit into economic terms, attracting businesses to invest in and develop more resiliently.
  • More safety consciousness, e.g., more effective implementation and use of land-use plans and building codes.
  • Making it happen: show successes, applaud good work, spread the word to influence decision-makers.  New thinking is required at all levels .  .  .  How are we going to plan and recover?

Mitigation Successes: not done but some progress:

  • National Disaster Recovery Framework is a good base for concepts, language, tools, and dialog.
  • Collaboration is good in a number of ways and should be built upon, e.g., Silver Jackets program between USACE and FEMA.
  • “Whole community approach” means to recognize that the feds are not going to come in and save the day but rather it is “What Happens at the Community Level.”  Embrace actions by municipal organizations, businesses, faith-based organizations – everyone.


Mike Kline

Mitigation Challenges and Needs:

  • On surviving a major disaster that covers an entire State: have your team learn to pace themselves, work to keep good communications between all involved agencies, keep the issue of resiliency high on the list of critical issues to be planned for and dealt with at the State level.
  • Prior to disasters: need to create regional centers with broadly trained teams capable of integrating conservation, hazard, community development, and transportation perspectives to support towns and to help them to support each other.  In any process you need to recognize that no plans go unchanged and you need to trust the teams to make good decisions on-the-fly.
  • In the case of floods, the damages and hazards may be due to systemic river instabilities far removed from the site level where damages are being assessed; be sure to focus on the causes of the problems and not the symptoms. Imminent threats that exist after a flood disaster necessitate emergency measures and require operational systems in place to mitigate future hazards from the immediate response on through the recovery phase of a disaster.
  • During large disasters, the best-laid plans for in-state coordination may be confounded by the large influx of federal and NGO disaster-related personnel from outside the state, who are unfamiliar with either the nature of the damages, the imminent threats or the affected communities.  Critical relationships and trust for effective and efficient recovery may be hindered by this unfamiliarity.  Building communication systems to enhance these new relationships, prior to disasters, may be a critical mitigation process.  Pre-established interagency agreements concerning local and state emergency and recovery standards can save time needed to focus on hands-on community work.

Mitigation Successes:

  • Bennington, Vermont, sought to support economically important development opportunities in locations—not mapped floodways or “special flood hazard areas”—identified as high risk for river erosion hazards.  Following one such instance, and after a lengthy court challenge, the town began working with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources to identify the flood and erosion hazard areas in its community.  This work resulted in the community having a better understanding of the need to protect floodplains and river corridors with new land use regulations.  This prompted the state to work with the town to fund floodplain mitigation efforts to remove encroachments from the erosion hazard areas.  During Tropical Storm Irene, this work resulted in Bennington’s escape of major damages it historically experienced in major floods.  The state of Vermont is now seeking to work with its federal partners to form a “Flood Resilient Communities Program” that will support the types of mitigation incentives and partnerships that have proved so successful in Bennington.


David Miller

Mitigation Challenges:

  • Building a risk-conscious culture.  How would you do that? Have a conversation with mayors – the three things you might ask them to consider: 1.  Do you know the real risks (science-based, economic, etc.) that your community faces and do you discuss those publically?  2.  What could your community not live without for 72 hours or more (transportation, education resources, regional interactions)?  3.  What are you willing to invest in to sustain your community through its threats (within and outside the community)?

Mitigation Needs:

  • Need to have a discussion of community problem-solving/risks.  Think outside the box and be ready for tomorrow’s events, communities, technologies, not yesterday’s.
  • Need to understand the real community dynamic and changes that are underway.  Challenge the assumptions of what a community will and can look like.  Might be better to move in concert with the community rather than just repairing what is there, e.g., maybe need to relocate the hospital.

Mitigation Successes:

  • Yesterday’s success does not mean it will be a success for tomorrow.  Need to synergize and synthesize for future needs.
  • Building codes are good but we might consider what risk we are building to and analyze how we can build to address more than one risk at a time.
  • See what we can learn from successes in different locations, e.g., Community Rating System of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Final Comments:

Right now we assign risk too often to those who cannot accept it.  NFIP should reflect the risk in its charges—we should provide incentives to do good things and penalties for bad behavior.

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