This year marks three decades since the Robert T. Stafford Act was amended to include funding for hazard mitigation; to date, FEMA has provided more than $15 billion in mitigation grants to support state, local, tribal and territorial efforts to rebuild their communities stronger and safer.
A National Institute of Building Sciences report issued earlier this year found federal mitigation projects, on average, can save the nation $6 in future disaster costs, for every $1 spent on hazard mitigation.
“Mitigation is a cornerstone of how we create a true culture of preparedness,” said FEMA Administrator Brock Long. “Investing in mitigation before the next disaster is the first step in building a more resilient nation.”
The flagship post-disaster grant program, Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), was implemented in 1988, through a Congressional amendment to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief Act. This act provided federal disaster funds to states following presidentially-declared disasters and supported cost effective measures during recovery that minimize the risk of loss in future disasters.
Initially, FEMA‘s annual grant budget was $200,000, which was used for public education and outreach to individuals after a disaster. This was not enough to fund the repairs or incorporate mitigation into those repairs within a community. Since then, FEMA’s hazard mitigation assistance programs have changed; they’ve now grown to include HMGP, Flood Mitigation Assistance and Pre-Disaster Mitigation grants. Today, FEMA’s hazard mitigation programs have provided more than $15 billion to help local communities, states, tribes and territories across the country to reduce disaster losses and protect life and property from future disasters.
FEMA’s mitigation grants reduce overall risk to a community’s residents and structures, as well as reduce reliance on federal funding. The programs’ goals are to provide a long-term solution to a natural hazard and ensure that the potential savings will be more than the cost of implementing the mitigation project in a community.
Below are examples of the types of mitigation projects funded since the grants program was authorized.
- With funding from FEMA, the community acquires properties (voluntary buyouts) from homeowners and demolishes or relocates any structures on the property to mitigate flood risk. The land then remains as open space in perpetuity. To date, more than 55,000 properties have been acquired.
- Safe rooms are designed and constructed either in community spaces such as residences, schools or community buildings. These rooms provide protection during extreme weather events such as tornadoes. To date, more than 37,000 safe rooms have been funded.
- Elevations are when homes are raised so that potential floodwaters may flow underneath the home. To date, more than 10,000 properties have been elevated.
- Utility protection and infrastructure retrofit projects are measures to reduce risk to existing public utility systems, roads and bridges. Examples include burying power lines to prevent debris or trees downing them during storms, or elevating sewer systems to reduce flood risks. To date, more than 1,400 projects have been funded.
- To minimize damage caused by high winds, wind retrofit enhancements are made to a property to strengthen the roof, walls, doors and windows. To date, more than 15,000 properties have been retrofitted.
- Flood-risk reduction projects such as dikes, levees, floodwalls and erosion projects that are cost-effective, feasible and designed to reduce risk. To date, nearly 2,300 projects have been funded.
- The purchase and installation of generators for the protection of critical facilities. To date, nearly 1,700 projects have been funded. These are installed in facilities such as hospitals, public utility and emergency operations centers in communities across the country.
A more detailed list of eligible mitigation projects is available online at https://www.fema.gov/hazard-mitigation-assistance-mitigation-activity-chart.
Visit https://www.fema.gov/30-years-of-HMA to see a timeline of important milestones about mitigation. To take a look back over the last 30 years in mitigation, through FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance Branch Chief, Karen Helbrecht’s eyes, read: https://www.fema.gov/blog/2018-03-06/look-back-30-years-mitigation-helping-communities-rebuild-stronger
FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grants Data Visualization
FEMA administers three Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) programs that provide funding for eligible mitigation planning and projects that reduce disaster losses and protect life and property from future disaster damages. The programs are the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) and Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) program. HMGP is the oldest of these grant programs and has been collecting data since the first grant was provided in 1989.
The snapshots below are examples to show FEMA’s online data visualization (http://bit.ly/2oJ72M9) resource. Each view summarizes the mitigation projects funded to include the amount of funds obligated and the number of mitigation projects for each of the programs. Data can be viewed by county, state, FEMA region or by Congressional District.