What is the difference between a natural hazard and a disaster?
Natural hazards are events that normally occur in the course of natural processes, and may also be triggered by human activity. Floods, landslides, earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, wildfires, and winter storms are some but not all of the natural hazards that occur in Oregon. Natural hazard events are considered disasters when they damage property (structures, land, and the environment) or cause injury or loss of life.
What is natural hazards mitigation? How is it different from preparing for a natural hazard event?
Both natural hazards mitigation and preparation activities are done before a natural hazard event occurs. Mitigation activities reduce property damage and loss of life, while preparation activities get people and communities ready to survive after an event.
Examples of Mitigation: seismically retrofitting a school, elevating a home in the floodplain, building wildfire-resistant structures.
Examples of Preparation: informing residents and visitors of evacuation routes, storing sandbags, food, water, medicine, or other necessities outside hazard areas, making emergency kits.
How do we decide what mitigation actions to take to make our community safer?
Deciding what mitigation actions to take is part of the natural hazards mitigation planning process. By participating in your community's planning process, you would help identify and describe the natural hazards that may occur in your community; the property that may be damaged; and the people who may be injured or lose their lives. We refer to the likelihood of a hazard occurring together with its potential for impacting people and property as its risk. Once risk is described for each of your community's hazards, you would help establish mitigation goals, decide on and prioritize the mitigation actions that would reduce risk from each hazard, and develop a plan to accomplish the actions.
What is a Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan (NHMP)?
An NHMP is one result of a natural hazards mitigation planning process. It documents the "risk assessment" or the hazards, vulnerabilities, and risks to people and property that were described during the planning process. It similarly documents the "mitigation strategy," the mitigation goals, actions, and implementation plan that were decided on based upon the risk assessment. The mitigation strategy also documents the capabilities of the community – its government's legal, financial, administrative, and professional resources, as well as community resources such as non-profit organizations and citizen groups – that can be called upon to achieve the mitigation actions. Finally, it sets out a system for continuing communication among participants and keeping the plan up to date.
Why does my community need an NHMP?
Communities benefit from mitigation planning by developing a clear understanding of their hazards and vulnerabilities and taking a proactive approach to reducing potential property damage and loss of life. With an NHMP, a community can also reduce the length of time that essential services are unavailable after a disaster; protect critical facilities; lessen economic hardship; speed recovery; and reduce construction costs. The planning process itself strengthens and builds community relationships, creates citizen networks, and encourages citizens to become advocates for natural hazard mitigation.
Is my community required to have an NHMP?
There is no Oregon statute or rule requiring communities to develop NHMPs. However, Statewide Planning Goal 7, Areas Subject to Natural Hazards, does require local governments to "adopt comprehensive plans (inventories, policies and implementing measures) to reduce risk to people and property from natural hazards." NHMPs provide much of the information needed to implement Goal 7.
The Stafford Act and Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 together are the basis for the Code of Federal Regulations governing mitigation planning (44 CFR 201) and establish NHMPs as a pre-requisite to obtaining certain grants for mitigation planning and on-the-ground projects from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). NHMPs must be reviewed, updated, and approved by FEMA every five years to keep them current and maintain eligibility for these grants. NHMPs are done by cities, counties, special districts, and tribes in Oregon and across the country. DLCD provides assistance to jurisdictions to develop and maintain NHMPs; integrate NHMPs with comprehensive plans; and to apply natural hazards data in developing policies and regulations.
Who is in charge of mitigation planning?
Generally, the county's or city's Emergency Manager or Planning Director is in charge of managing the mitigation planning process; continuing communication among participants during the five-year life of the plan; and keeping the plan updated and approved by FEMA. Oregon's office of Emergency Management maintains a contact list of county emergency managers.
What is Risk MAP?
DLCD coordinates the Risk MAP (Mapping, Assessment, and Planning) program throughout Oregon. Risk MAP is the Federal Emergency Management program that produces Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs); multi-hazard maps and data; and risk assessment tools; and supports communities’ disaster resilience programs. Click here for more information.
What is NFIP?
DLCD coordinates the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in Oregon through an agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Staff provides assistance and training to local floodplain managers, property owners, surveyors, real estate agents, and others. Click here for more information.
How do I get an Elevation Certificate?
An Elevation Certificate will likely be needed by your insurance agent to purchase flood insurance from the NFIP. This document must be prepared by Licensed Land Surveyor or Registered Professional Engineer. One key piece of information displayed on a completed elevation certificate is the base flood elevation (BFE), which is the expected elevation of a flood that has a 1% chance of happening in any given year. The relationship of the BFE to the elevation of the building’s floors helps determine the cost of flood insurance. Buildings having their lowest fully enclosed floor above base flood elevation often enjoy lower insurance costs than buildings with enclosed floors below the base flood elevation. Click here to read more about elevation certificates and the NFIP.