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: NHMA track 2 Mitigation Needs: Presidential Policy Directive 8: Integrating the Whole Community


  •       David Mallory, Denver Urban Drainage and Flood Control District
  •       Jim Schwab, American Planning Association
  •       Darrin Punchard, AECOM

Moderator:     Roy Wright, FEMA

Recorder:       Deborah Mills, Dewberry


Roy Wright: Moderator’s Opening Remarks.  He said PPD-8 is titled National Preparedness.  Mr. Wright explained that during the one year process, in bringing in stakeholders, there was a disparate view as to the meaning of PPD 8.  He said hazard mitigation refers to capabilities to lessen the impacts to people and property, including but not limited to efforts to reduce impacts to infrastructure from natural hazards and terrorism.

Mr. Wright summarized the process:

  • Bringing in these stakeholders who did not know each other was a challenge.
  • Infrastructure divided into two areas: resilience and sustainability.
  • Broke down silos and forced us to look at infrastructure issues critical to society such as water (electric and communication systems usually come first).
  • Kansas City stakeholder meeting resulted in massive input, then a two-day draft composition effort.
  • The concepts from the draft resulted in the final plan after more than 2,000 adjudicated comments.

Mr. Wright suggested the directive will make some definitive statements about mitigation that will drive federal programs in the future: 1) it will set resilience and sustainability as guiding principles, and 2) it will establish resilience as the “end state” of effective risk management.

He said seven categories were maintained in the successive drafts, not as novel ideas, but defining a nation focused on its risks and bringing elements together in making risk-informed decisions within five societal elements of the National Recovery Framework:

  • Economic
  • Housing
  • Infrastructure
  • Health and community welfare
  • Cultural and natural resources

Mr. Wright explained the draft document is presently at the White House for final review during the next few weeks.  He said the May 2, 2012, draft is mostly intact; graphics are slightly changed.  He said a mitigation framework leadership group was created to oversee and ensure that capabilities move forward, and includes state, local, and federal entities.


David Mallory, Denver Urban Drainage and Flood Control District

Mr. Mallory reported on his experience on the core writing team for integrating stakeholder comments into implementation schemes for PPD-8.  He said representatives of many organizations attended the meeting in Kansas City, leading to even more written comments totaling over 130 pages, from which the team worked to craft a 40-page draft.

Mr. Mallory said there will be some fundamental changes, because the discussion has grown far beyond traditional FEMA mitigation programs:

  1.  Mitigation in PPD-8 is about building capabilities and capacity without new resources.
  2. It is clear that we have to do more with less.  A basic workshop premise to participants was not to create a new program.
  3. Conversations need to be much broader.  Floodplain managers need to talk to emergency managers, for example.
  4. Theme from Dave Miller, FEMA: Mitigation is the thread that weaves through the fabric of emergency management.
  5. The new framework reflects many positive aspects of Risk MAP: delivery of regulatory and non-regulatory products to help communities make good decisions.


Jim Schwab: Manager, Hazards Planning Research Center, American Planning Association 

Mr. Schwab listed what he considers to be important issues and concerns in the evolution toward PPD8-based mitigation programming and the emphasis on capabilities:

1.    Does the built-in tension between national security and natural hazards emphasis become a barrier to success?

2.    How is DHS/FEMA evolving?  The initial creation of FEMA involved fairly strong national defense cold-war staffs.  It evolved toward civilian help to local governments with disasters Andrew, Northridge, Fran, Floyd, and then push-back to a national defense role with the attacks of 9/11.  Then bounce-back to a military assistance emphasis in the Katrina response, but Katrina was as much a man-made as a natural event due to lack of quality and capacity of infrastructure.  We made problems larger than they needed to be.

3.    It is not clear that planners have the luxury to focus on natural mitigation when there is an urban environment and urban design principles to consider.  For example: Design for national security in the Nation’s Capital.

4.    What caused the recent Colorado wildfires? The mix of human and natural causes.  For wildfire mitigation, the cause does not really affect the outcome or how we mitigate.  Conditions determine outcome based on relationship between natural and built environments.

Mr. Schwab referenced the 2010 American Planning Association report:  Hazard Mitigation: Integrating Best Practices into Planning.  He said the FEMA-sponsored report came from the approach that there is a lack of emergency managers integrating local planners into the local HMP process.  He said local hazard mitigation planning has no legal bearing; a comprehensive plan does, so it makes sense to link them.  He said related work is now underway with a new FEMA contract, to revise the 1998 disaster recovery planning guide known as the “Green Book” to reflect new federal policy in DMA2000, NDRF and PPD-8.

Mr. Schwab suggested three examples where pre-planning will aid effective disaster recovery:

–    Iowa Smart Plan Act:  integrated FEMA and EPA concepts and defined what a local comprehensive plan should contain, with ten requirements and 13 qualifiers—one is a local Hazard Mitigation Plan—plus integration of smart growth.

–    Cedar Rapids, Iowa:  integrated emergency management into its new comprehensive plan.

–    Roseville, California:  proactive flood resistant community motivated from 1995 floods, Folsom Dam, major military arsenal accident many years ago and seismic hazards.  (See Onion video on Folsom Dam).  Roseville tends to make little distinction between natural versus man-made hazards.


Darrin Punchard, AECOM

Mr. Punchard explained that he had represented NHMA at the Mitigation Framework Stakeholder Event in Kansas City, January 2012.  He said the session used fast feedback technologies for providing input to further define “mitigation core capabilities,”  interconnections with other mission areas—prevention, protection, response, and recovery—and stakeholder roles and responsibilities within local communities.

Mr. Punchard said FEMA’s David Miller started off the event by stating a theme many have heard before: “Mitigation is the thread that permeates the fabric of national preparedness.”  He said this sentiment was echoed in the resulting draft of the National Mitigation Framework, and considering how mitigation could have been classified—not a mission area at all—in the new National Preparedness System, this is quite an endorsement.  Mr. Punchard explained the final draft NMF document is very dense, difficult to get through, yet it can be seen as a composite reflecting the drafting process, and represents the wider community, with evidence of all the sentiments heard at the stakeholder event.  He said a hundred years from now, because of its breadth, whether we got it right or wrong, people will be able look back and know what we were thinking in 2012.

Mr. Punchard posed a question:  What does the Framework mean for us as mitigation practitioners?  He suggested, “For most of us, probably not much – at least directly or in the near term, because it is mostly about federal doctrine.”  He said practitioner members of NHMA tend to be extensively engaged in efforts that already contribute to the capability targets assigned in this new Framework to the mitigation mission area and continue to help strengthen our national preparedness.  Mr. Punchard also explained this new initiative is going to be accomplished by assessing, communicating and mitigating the risks that are most important and relevant to practitioners, and our communities or organizations.  He said mitigation experts should expect to be asked or encouraged to bring more professional groups into the discussion and process, and perhaps address new kinds of hazards, but the central mission will remain the same—to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters.  He said an issue still remains, concerning future allocation of resources in support of national preparedness, including mitigation grant funding, and how much those allocations will be guided by the targets or performance thresholds used for each core capability.

Darrin Punchard posed a second question: “What does the Framework mean for NHMA?”  He said he believes it is a tremendous and timely opportunity, because: 1) NHMA was founded through a grassroots effort to bring together individuals and organizations working in the field of hazard mitigation, and 2) as we continue to grow from the bottom up, there are clear connections to be made with a National Framework that is being driven from the top-down, and by its own volition, is the shared responsibility of the “whole community.”  He suggested NHMA has been extremely successful in pulling together a cross-section of thiscommunity” – many disparate disciplines and geographies dealing with multiple hazards.  He said NHMA members include individuals, communities, the private and nonprofit sectors, faith-based organizations, plus federal, state, and local governments.

Mr. Punhard further suggested that NHMA strongly resembles a solid example of what is being called a Coordinating Structure in the National Mitigation Framework.  He explained that this new term is defined by the PPD-8 Program Executive Office as “a coordinating structure is composed of representatives from multiple departments or agencies, public and/or private sector organizations, or a combination of the preceding, and is able to facilitate the preparedness and delivery of capabilities.  Coordinating structures provide guidance, support, and integration to aid in the preparedness of the whole community.  They ensure ongoing communication and coordination between all parties involved in preparing and delivering capabilities.”  He said NHMA might best be described as one that spans horizontally at the local level, but also extends vertically from the individual to the national level. He said NHMA could be most effective at bringing people together.

 Concerning next steps for the mitigation framework, Mr. Puncard suggested it is similar to a design or blueprint for a new vehicle, where there may be a prototype, something perhaps rolled out onto the test tracks.  He said it seems there may be an immediate opportunity for NHMA, but also an opportunity for FEMA and its partners, to begin facilitating and somehow testing, in a more realistic and measurable way, the application of the horizontal and vertical coordination sought through the Framework using NHMA as a vehicle to engage the whole community, and enable the delivery of the core capabilities advocated in the Framework document.

He noted that one of the capability targets for the Mitigation Mission Area is to “Achieve a measurable decrease in the long-term vulnerability of the Nation against current baselines amid a growing population base and expanding infrastructure base.”  He said it would be necessary to test how this notion can be applied and examined under the microscope at the local community level – perhaps by working in cooperation with NHMA and its recently launched seven pilot communities who will be working together as the Resilient Neighbors Network, through peer-to-peer networking on strengthening and expanding their local hazard mitigation prograMs. Mr. Punchard proposed it would be worthwhile to see how these local communities and their private sector partners would develop or revise their plans based on the information provided through the National Mitigation Framework.  He said this would help clarify whether the Framework would potentially change the way things are done in order to reduce community vulnerability, and also whether the experience would alter the Framework in the future.

Concerning the five distinct mission areas, Mr. Punchard said these areas might become less stove-piped for operations closer to the local level.  He said this would help specify how the “integrated, all-of-Nation, capabilities-based approach to preparedness” sought through the National Mitigation Framework can be refined based on some further vetting/testing process with communities across the country in widely dispersed regions, facing many different threats and hazards, and varied capabilities.  He said this testing would need to examine the true capabilities for integration on a smaller scale—potentially more attainable.

Mr. Punchard offered comments about what NHMA can do to help achieve the goals of PPD-8 in general and the Mitigation Framework in particular.  He said all advocates need to make a better business case for mitigation, recognizing that PPD-8 calls for an assessment of national preparedness, including quantifiable performance measures to track progress over time, including mitigation programs. Mr. Punchard said it is likely these assessment results will inform future federal program decisions and budgets, adding to the importance of data that fully reflect the benefits of actual mitigation investments.

Considering the overall value of this pursuit, Mr. Punchard observed it is a challenge, but also huge and important opportunity for mitigation advocates who are constantly concerned, if not simply dumbfounded, by the lack of understanding or appreciation for how important the mitigation of natural hazards is becoming for this country.  He stressed the term “natural,” though recognizing that PPD-8 and the National Mitigation Framework is an integrated, all-hazards approach to preparedness.

For other mission areas, Mr. Punchard proposed that in matters such as the protection activities or disaster response there will be new benchmarks developed for the assessment of progress, perhaps involving the measurement the “operational readiness” against target capability levels identified in the National Preparedness Goal.  He said these targets will likely include metrics such as the number of what are being called “readily deployable assets” such as SWAT teams, urban search and rescue teams, bomb squads, canine explosive detection teams. He noted such standards may make it more rigorous a process to present Congress with facts and figures that demonstrate capability targets are being met or gaps being filled for natural hazards mitigation, and to describe how important they are in support of our national preparedness.  He called attention to the fact that—when done right—mitigation activities can eliminate the need for many readily deployable assets in terms of emergency response and disaster recovery.

Mr. Punchard said one of the greatest concerns he has heard expressed by fellow NHMA members, but also shared here by many in the past few days of the workshop, is that the true value of mitigation is often invisible, and does not result in the instant gratification or immediate, measurable benefits that are more easily recognized and supported in the name of homeland security.  He contrasted that sense with the many explicit mitigation success stories about results where many lives have been saved, damages and losses avoided, and many taxpayer dollars saved.  He proposed that mitigation advocates are good at telling these stories to each other, but the need is to do a much better job of communicating risk awareness and the value of mitigation externally, and not just to the leaders in Washington, but to local community leaders, the media, the insurance industry, and the general public as well.

Regarding a mutual opportunity for NHMA, and for FEMA and its partners, Mr. Punchard proposed more emphasis pursuing and documenting clear and measurable returns on investment for mitigation, especially the non-structural solutions versus the brick-and-mortar projects.  He said the latter has already been demonstrated to create a 4:1 return on investment, meaning the former could be something much greater.  He said the discussions at this workshop demonstrate convincing evidence that NHMA and the experience and expertise of its members can certainly help in pulling together a strong business case for mitigation that represents the interests of the “Whole Community,” and can help FEMA and its partners in measuring progress of the Framework over time.

4 Q/A

Audience Questions, Answers and Discussion

Question: Your definition of preparedness doesn’t resonate with the design community.  They think it’s all about police, fire and rescue.  How do you reach out to designers, builders and developers?

Answer:  (Roy Wright) Broad based economic vitality, housing, and infrastructure are the three lenses used in the discussion as Congress defined “preparedness,” and we can’t change it.  We need to demonstrate what works, and how it produces profit to private sector.  In the urban planning realm we need a bridge to connect mitigation lingo to the design community.

Answer: (Jim Schwab) What is the scale of design?  For architects it is a building, for planners it is a larger section of the community.  Another sector is the landscape architects who are open to discussion of environment, and then engineers.  If we consider varying scales, we may open the discussion context.

Question:  What was the role of design/developers with the new Mitigation Framework?

Answer:  Homebuilders were “in the room,” but were not a major factor.  The Constitution forbids federal influence on local land use, but feds can influence reduction or cause of risk.  30% revenue from state government is federal funds—the disaster relief fund.  Categories C – G infrastructure grants could hinge on a community’s efforts to reduce risk through adoption of a building code and similar measures.

Question:  How do you anticipate the new framework to trickle down to requirements of DMA planning?

Answer:  (Roy Wright)  There should not be a lot of space between a Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA) and a Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (HIRA).  The first round is minimal to states and not required for communities.  The Comprehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG) 101 will be superseded by CPG 100.  Mr. Wright said he is committed to making sure we are doing good planning, advanced appropriately to bridge gaps, and not be too prescriptive.  He said FEMA does not want engagement in redundant activities.

Question:  What we do at the state level is tied to 44CFR, we use the crosswalk and plan review tool, even if it is not required by 44CFR.  It might help you identify core capabilities and make changes in the regulation.  We do not have to do it, and we will not force our communities to do it.

Answer:  (Jim Schwab) I was happy to see the new emphasis on integration.  States could go further, and assist integration by state requirements.

Answer:  (Roy Wright) FEMA has tried to make it clear as to what is required and what would make it stronger, and also attempted to look at 44CFR201 and incentivize greater efforts.

Answer:  (Darrin Punchard) Pre-DMA 2000 some states launched voluntary HMP effort; such as an example in North Carolina, requiring a hazard mitigation plan to be in place to get FEMA Public Assistance program support, i.e., funding for infrastructure repair after a declared disaster.

Question:  Much has been said about integration of climate change adaptation, mitigation, comprehensive planning and emergency management.  What is the mechanism to implement and bring money to the table?  America Burning 2002, a FEMA publication, documents reducing urban fire in 200 years through rewards such as lower insurance rates.  We need to show communities how to bring monies to development commissions, etc.

 Answer: (Roy Wright) We need to identify community economic drivers.  Craig Fugate says the greatest indicator of mitigation is the resilience of the local government tax base.  Resilience ensures stability and sustainability of services the public expects.

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