FEMA has issued new guidelines, effective as of March 2016, for evaluating State plans to reduce or eliminate risks from natural hazards. The new Guide establishes the new standards, now including climate change, that must be met by states in planning for reduction of the risks from natural disasters. Significantly, funding to the states can be impacted by the failure to meet these guidelines.
Referring to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report, the Guide notes that “the challenge posed by climate change such as more intense storms, frequent heavy precipitation, heat waves, drought, extreme flooding and higher sea levels, could significantly alter the types and magnitudes of hazards impacting states in the future”.
The Guide also requires that states assess their current capabilities to address risk and indicate how those capabilities may be strengthened. The plans must establish hazard mitigation goals and how the states plan to meet those goals. These should include everything from land use regulations to utilities, transportation and emergency planning.
The Guide notes that “critical” to planning is the need to incorporate “local and tribal” mitigation plan strategies. In this regard the Guide states that “all mitigation is local”. Therefore states should provide training, technical assistance and “where available funding” to assist localities to be aware of state priorities, as well as hazard data and planning resources.
The state plans must not only look at current conditions but are required to assess development patterns. In this regard the guidelines indicate that mitigation priorities should not only include the next five years but should also look “outward to the long term ” for the next ten or twenty years.
It should be interesting to see the reaction to the new Guide.