Hazard Mitigation Planning
Georgia's unique geographical location exposes the state and its citizens to severe weather at any time of the year. Georgia is one the few places where regional weather conditions may include snow and ice accumulations accompanied by lighting and tornadoes from the same storm event. Georgia has averaged a federal disaster declaration about once every year for the last fifteen years. How can we protect and prepare ourselves for the next natural disaster in Georgia? One answer is Hazard Mitigation Planning.
A Hazard Mitigation Plan forms the foundation for a community's long-term strategy to reduce disaster losses and break the cycle of disaster damage, reconstruction and repeated damage. The planning process is as important as the plan itself. It creates a framework for risk-based decision making to reduce damages to lives, property, and the economy from future disasters. State and local governments are required to develop and maintain a hazard mitigation plan as a condition of receiving certain types of hazard mitigation disaster assistance, emergency and non-emergency. The requirements and procedures for state and local mitigation plans are found in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at Title 44, Chapter 1, Part 201 (44 CFR Part 201).
State Mitigation Planning
In March 2005, Georgia reached a significant milestone with the completion of the first State Hazard Mitigation Plan to meet the federal requirements of 44 CFR Part 201. Subsequently, a three-year update of the State of Georgia Mitigation Plan including Enhanced Plan elements was approved in March 2008, March 2011, and March 2014. The next plan update is scheduled for March 2019. Georgia is one of ten states to receive Enhanced Plan status. This allows the state to receive additional Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds in the aftermath of a disaster. Since Georgia obtained Enhanced Plan status in 2008, more than $11 million in additional HMGP funds have been received and passed on to local governments to implement mitigation actions.
The State of Georgia Mitigation Plan identifies twelve natural hazards that impact the state, assessed the vulnerability of those hazards and outlined a strategy to reduce those vulnerabilities.
Local Hazard Mitigation Planning
With the passage of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 and implementing regulations in February 2002, the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency provided technical assistance to local governments in the development and update of their mitigation plans. GEMHSA helped local governments secure grant funding to develop a multi-jurisdictional hazard mitigation plan in each county. By June 2010, all 159 Georgia counties received federal approval of their local mitigation plans. These plans are updated and approved by FEMA every five years to maintain eligibility for HMA grants.
Georgia counties are completing the first plan update cycle and all communities are expected to complete their initial plan updates by next year. In addition, the second plan update cycle is underway.
Governor's Commendation for Excellence in Customer Service
In February 2011, the Hazard Mitigation Planning team proudly accepted the Governor's Commendation for Excellence in Customer Service award for their efforts in helping all 159 counties in Georgia develop their initial Hazard Mitigation Plans. Also, for the Hazard Mitigation Division's efforts in the development and management of its grants management system and the development of the enhanced portion of the State Hazard Mitigation Plan, the state was awarded the status of "Enhanced State" by FEMA. This award enables the state to receive 33% more HMGP funding in the event of presidentially declared disasters. Over 70 counties involved in the spring and fall floods of 2009 received $9.8 million more in HMGP funding because of this award. Georgia is one of only ten states in the nation to hold this status. In March 2014, FEMA reapproved Georgia's Enhanced State status for another five years.