The Disciplines of Emergency Management

The Disciplines of Emergency Management: Mitigation

What You’ll Learn ● The variety of mitigation tools available to planners ● Impediments to mitigation and other associated problems ● Federal and nonfederal mitigation programs ● Mitigation methods in practice through specific case studies

Introduction Disasters are a reality of living in the natural world. Despite humans ’ attempts to con- trol nature that began with the early Egyptians and continue to today’s massive flood- control efforts, natural hazards are something we constantly face. Over the last decade, the social and economic costs of disasters to the United States and throughout the world have grown significantly. From 2000 to 2008, the costs of disasters in the United States are estimated to be over $355 billion. Deaths and economic losses from natural disasters worldwide jumped significantly in 2008 compared to the previous seven years. In 2008 the UN estimated that 235,816 people were killed in natural disasters, 211 million were impacted, and the cost was over US$181 billion. Costs from dealing with disasters were 50 percent higher than the average costs per year from 2000 to 2007. The causes of this growth are myriad. Climatological changes such as El Ni ñ o, global warming, and a rise in sea level are some of the factors. When you add the effects of societal actions, such as increased development, deforestation and clear-cutting, the migration of populations to coastal areas, and the filling in of floodplains, you have total calamity.

Mitigation , the means for reducing these impacts, is defined as a sustained action to reduce or eliminate the risks to people and property from such hazards and their effects. In our discussion of mitigation, we focus on natural hazards mitigation efforts and pro- grams in the United States. We will examine some of the techniques for mitigation of technological hazards, but the body of knowledge and applications in this area are still evolving. Many of the successful natural hazards techniques such as building codes, how- ever, can be applied to technological hazards.

The function of mitigation differs from the other emergency management disciplines because it looks at long-term solutions to reducing risk as opposed to preparedness for hazards, the immediate response to a hazard, or the short-term recovery from a hazard



event. Mitigation is usually not considered part of the emergency phase of a disaster as in response or as part of emergency planning as in preparedness. The definition lines do get a little blurred regarding recovery. Applying mitigation strategies should be a part of the recovery from disaster (see Chapter 7), but even in this context, these are actions that will reduce the impacts, or risks, over time.

The recovery function of emergency management still represents one of the best opportunities for mitigation, and until recently, this phase in a disaster plan provided the most substantial funding for mitigation activities. Recently, however, the trend has shifted toward greater federal spending on predisaster mitigation, which is discussed later in this chapter.

Another thing that sets mitigation apart from the other disciplines of emergency man- agement is the participation and support of a broad spectrum of players outside of the traditional emergency management circle. Mitigation involves land-use planners; con- struction and building officials, both public and private; business owners; insurance companies; community leaders; and politicians. The skills and tools for accomplishing mitigation (i.e., planning expertise, political acumen, marketing and public relations, and consensus building) are different from the operational, first-responder skills that more often characterize emergency management professionals. In fact, historically, emergency management professionals have been reluctant to take a lead role in promoting mitiga- tion. To paraphrase a state director of emergency management, “ I will never lose my job for failing to do mitigation, but I could lose my job if I mess up a response. ”

With the exception of the fire community, whose members were early leaders in the effort to mitigate fire risks through support for building codes, code enforcement, and public education, the emergency management community has remained focused on their preparedness planning and response obligations. Throughout the decade of 2000, leadership at the federal level has supported these priorities through their funding, espe- cially after the events of September 11, where terrorism planning and preparedness were top priorities. Even in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, mitigation was not viewed as a programmatic imperative. Some exceptions, such as new federal mitigation programs supported to reduce exposure under the NFIP and more interest at the local level to apply mitigation postdisaster, were evidenced. The rise in local initiatives is important because that is where mitigation can be the most effective in reducing future losses ( Figure 3-1 ). However, the lack of leadership at the federal level is troubling, since state and local emer- gency managers traditionally reflect federal priorities in their actions.

This chapter discusses the tools of mitigation, the impediments to mitigation, federal programs that support mitigation, and several case studies that demonstrate how these tools have been applied to successfully reduce various risks.

Mitigation Tools Over the years, the United States has made great strides in reducing the number of deaths that occur in natural disasters. Through building codes, warning systems, and public

Chapter 3 ● The Disciplines of Emergency Management: Mitigation 71

education, the number of deaths and casualties from natural disasters in the last century has significantly declined. Economic effects and property damages, however, have esca- lated. Many people believe that these costs are preventable and that the tools required to dramatically reduce these costs are now available ( Figure 3-2 ).

Technological disasters such as the Oklahoma City bombing and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, are not as easy to analyze. There is much speculation about how improved intelligence and security could reduce the human effects of these disasters. From a property perspective, many people believe that some reduction in impacts could be achieved through application of traditional mitigation techniques such as improved building construction for blast effects. Other technological disasters such as the Valdez oil spill, the Three Mile Island emergency, and so on could have been prevented through better inspections, training, education, and exercises. These measures reflect good pre- paredness activities more than mitigation. In any case, further research and analyses are needed to answer the questions posed by the effects of terrorist events and similar tech- nological hazards.

Most practitioners agree that the primary intent of mitigation is to ensure that fewer communities and individuals become victims of disasters. The goal of mitigation is to create economically secure, socially stable, better built, and more environmentally sound communities that are out of harm’s way ( Figure 3-3 ).

FIGURE 3-1 Pascagoula, Mississippi, November 29, 2005, and August 8, 2006. Before (top) and after (bottom) photos of the elevation of a house flooded by the storm surge of Hurricane Katrina. Elevating a house is an excellent way to protect it against flooding. Mark Wolfe/FEMA.


The following mitigation tools are known to reduce risk:

● Hazard identification and mapping ● Design and construction applications ● Land-use planning ● Financial incentives ● Insurance ● Structural controls

FIGURE 3-2 Pass Christian, Mississippi, October 4, 2005. Aerial photo of the only surviving home in the area that was completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Foundations are all that remain of most of the neighboring homes. The surviving home was built using many FEMA standards. John Fleck/FEMA.

FIGURE 3-3 Malibu, California, November 16, 2007. The irrigation sprinkler system at Pepperdine University Campus is an example of how fire prevention and mitigation practices can save homes and vegetation. Susie Shapira/FEMA.

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Hazard Identification and Mapping The hazard identification mitigation tool is fairly obvious. You can’t mitigate a hazard if you don’t know what it is or whom it affects. The most essential part of any mitigation strategy or plan is an analysis of what the hazards are in a particular area. The resources for hazard identification are numerous. The federal government has extensive programs that map virtually every hazard, and these products are available to communities. FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) provides detailed flood maps and studies, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) provides extensive earthquake and landslide studies and maps. Many state agencies have refined the products for hazard identification. For example, special soil stability studies and geological investigations, which are required in some parts of California, further refine this analysis.

Geographic information systems (GIS) have become ubiquitous and are staples for all local planning organizations. What is often missing from the available tools is the ability to superimpose the human and built environment onto the hazards, thereby providing a quantified level of risk. FEMA’s HAZUS methodology, which was developed in the 1990s, has become a user-oriented tool for both state and local emergency managers to assess potential losses from floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Potential losses estimated in HAZUS include physical damage, economic loss, and societal impacts. This tool is also available to the private sector.

The newest addition to the mapping tool kit is a program called RiskMAP that aims to reduce the losses of life and property through effective local mitigation activities driven by quality flood hazard data, risk assessments, and mitigation planning. On March 16, 2009, the U.S. Congress approved FEMA’s Risk Mapping, Assessment, and Planning (RiskMAP) Multi-Year Plan for Fiscal Years 2011 – 2014.


FEMA ’s Multi-Year Plan outlines the goals, objectives, and strategies for RiskMAP and identifies the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders. It is available at flhm .

Design and Construction Applications

The design and construction process provides one of the most cost-effective means of addressing risk. This process is governed by building codes, architecture and design cri- teria, and soils and landscaping considerations. Code criteria that support risk reduction usually apply only to new construction, substantial renovation, or renovation to change the type or use of the building. Enactment of building codes is the responsibility of the states, and most state codes are derivatives of one of the three model codes, which reflect geo- graphical differences across the United States. Some states delegate code adoption respon- sibility to more local governmental authorities. Because of the cost, codes that require rehabilitation of existing potentially hazardous structures have been rarely implemented.


The Los Angeles seismic retrofit ordinance is a rare example. The case study of the new design codes to decrease the impacts of wildfires in California, which have become an increasing threat, illustrates the importance of building codes to mitigation.


Rancho Santa Fe, California. More than 2,460 multimillion-dollar houses that were constructed with the strictest construction standards possible, including expansive defensible space around and within the home development areas, survived extremely well when the Witch Fire stormed through the area in October 2007.

The blaze burned up to plants on defensible spaces and stopped. Embers blown into areas of the estates bounced off tile roofs with boxed-in eaves, stucco walls, patios, and other areas and then died out without leaving more than incidental damage, mostly scorched plants. Although a half-dozen charred embers the size of footballs were found in the Cielo estates, according to Ken Crosby, one of the realtors for the estate areas, “ Nothing was burned. ”

Five Rancho Santa Fe developments, completed just three-plus years before the Witch Fire, basically set construction standards on the “ shelter-in-place ” concept developed in Australia. The standards for construction and mitigation, including mandated interior fire sprinklers, extensive defensible space, and use of fire-resistant vegetation, are the “ toughest in the country, ” according to Cliff Hunter, fire marshal for the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District, which provides fire protection for the five developments.

The strict development standards also make these homes in the shelter-in-place communities safer places to stay if the residents are unable to evacuate. Fire officials, however, advise people to evacuate rather than stay and try to fight the fires and to not get a false sense of security because their homes are considered to be a safe refuge.

The estate homes were constructed with materials and techniques intended to make the structures as resistant as possible to the effects of wildland fires. Only slow-to-ignite plants are planted near the homes. The standards are strictly maintained by the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District’s fire marshal.

The Sargentis ’ home is on the eastern edge of The Crosby, with a wide swath of defensible space adjoining the backyard. During the fire, smoke and ash entered their home through the drier vent, and the garage filled with smoke. The Sargentis explained that they had attended a program that explained how the shelter-in-place program worked. They learned that the concept had not been tested in the United States and that they should “ get out early ” if they chose to evacuate, as well as what to do if they stayed in their home.

When they learned that the fire was headed their way, they immediately left — well before the automatic alert that was sent to their house at 9 a.m. that Monday morning. Steve Sargenti said he “ knew the house was intact, ” and when the family returned, they found their house untouched, other than the smoke inside. Embers that had landed on the concrete tile roof had burned out, and the courtyard in front of the house “ was a repository ” for spent embers, said Steve.

Source : � 5368

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Performance -based design and construction are becoming more critical, especially when building in earthquake-prone areas. This concept incorporates not just life safety requirements but continued use of the building in the aftermath of any disaster. In lieu of updated building codes, performance-based design can play a significant role in ensur- ing the viability of our built environment in the aftermath of a disaster.

The federal government has made a significant investment in developing technical guidance for improving the building and construction of structures in hazard areas, par- ticularly earthquake-, wind-, and flood-prone areas. The International Code Council’s (ICC) attempts to establish a single building code that would be adopted by local and state jurisdictions are moving forward and have experienced some success. The ICC is not promoting a National Code, as such, but there has been some discussion of develop- ing a National Code to support mitigation efforts. Because the constitutional responsibil- ity for public health and safety resides with the states, a National Code developed by the federal government is not politically feasible or practical.

Land-Use Planning

Mitigation programs are most successful when they are undertaken at the local level, where most decisions about development are made. The strategies for land-use plan- ning offer many options for effecting mitigation, including acquisition, easements, storm water management, annexation, environmental review, and floodplain management plans. It also encompasses a myriad of zoning options such as density controls, special uses permits, historic preservation, coastal zone management, and subdivision controls.

Land -use planning was one of the earliest tools used to encourage mitigation. In 1968, Congress passed the National Flood Insurance Act that established the NFIP. This act required local governments to pass a floodplain management ordinance in return for fed- erally backed, low-cost flood insurance being made available to the community. This act started one of the largest federal mapping efforts because the government promised local governments that they would provide them with the technical tools to determine where the floodplains were in their communities so they could steer development away from these areas. A more complete discussion of the NFIP can be found later in this chapter.

Moving structures out of harm’s way through property acquisition is clearly the most effective land-use planning tool, but it is also the most costly. Following the Midwest floods of 1993, FEMA worked with Congress to make property acquisition more feasible by providing a substantial increase in funding for acquisition after a disaster. This is one of the mitigation programs that has flourished, with numerous communities working with their citizens to voluntarily agree to be moved out of harm’s way in light of signifi- cant or repetitive flooding.

Land -use planning and ordinances can promote risk reduction in many other ways. The North Carolina coastal setback ordinance seeks to preserve the fragile and eroding coastlines of its barrier islands. The Alquist-Priola Act in California limits development near known earthquake faults.


Financial Incentives

The financial incentives tool is an emerging area for promoting mitigation. Among the approaches being used by localities to reduce risks are creating special tax assessments, passing tax increases or bonds to pay for mitigation, offering relocation assistance, and targeting federal community development or renewal grant funds for mitigation.


Riverton , Illinois. The Sangamon River forms the west boundary of the Village of Riverton, a quaint community that 2,997 residents call home. But the Village of Riverton has had a long flood history. To lessen the impact of floods on its residents, the village joined forces with other communities in Sangamon County to devise a plan. Acquisition was definitely the mitigation measure of choice, and council members have encouraged the creation of green space in the floodplain area. According to Linda Viola, office manager and grant administrator for the Village of Riverton, “ This was the second time these homes were hit. The first time was in 1994. We knew that something needed to be done. ”

Riverton is 550 feet above sea level. The village has a total area of 2.1 square miles: 2 square miles of land and 0.04 square miles of water (1.93 percent). Heavy rainfall causes the creek, which runs through the middle of Riverton, to frequently overtop its banks.

The Acquisition Project was initiated in July 2002 and completed in August 2006. Riverton received a grant totaling $272,867.66 from FEMA through its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). HMGP pays 75 percent of approved projects that will prevent or reduce damage from storms and other natural hazards. These grants are made available for both public and private projects.

“ We filled out all the grant information, and we notified the homeowners. They also knew that they had a choice, ” said Viola. “ They could choose to participate or not. Participation is voluntary. We completed the project without any major problems. When you buy someone’s home, they always think that it’s worth more. There were some who disagreed with the appraisal. The properties were appraised a second time. The homeowner has a right to request a second appraisal. ”

Buyouts of flood-prone homes located near the Sangamon River began in July 2004. The average value was $75,000, and the total project cost was $376,048.66. The village acquired six homes that were then demolished, resulting in open space within the floodplain.

A June 2008 flood event tested the success of the acquisition project as waters from the Sangamon River crept upon the 140,506-acre tract of land. If those six homes had not been removed, they would have been flooded with two to three feet of water.

A local alderman contacted Ron Davis, the state hazard mitigation officer, who acknowledged, “ It was great this year when the waters came up, [and we were] able to sit back and relax and not have to mobilize our forces to fight the flood. ” Said Viola, “ Those [acquired] homes were in the floodplain. Flooding would continue to occur. I don’t know how the people could have lived with the flood and continued to rebuild in the same area knowing that it would happen again. We found a way to help them. ”

Source : FEMA. � 6057

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The economic effects of repetitive flooding led the citizens of Napa, California, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, to pass small tax increases to pay for flood-mitigation activities. In both cases, the tax had a minimal effect on the community citizens but had a major effect in reducing the potential economic losses from future floods. Berkeley, California, has passed more than ten different bond issues to support seismic retrofit of public build- ings, schools, and private residences.

Funding from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), a HUD program, has been used extensively to support local efforts at property acquisition and reloca- tion. These funds have been used to meet the nonfederal match on other federal funding, which has often been a stumbling block to local mitigation. Other federal programs of the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Economic Development Administration provide financial incentives for mitigation.

Other emerging areas of financial tools include special assessment districts, impact fees, and transfer of development rights. All of these tools provide either incentives or pen- alties to developers as a means of promoting good risk-reduction development practices.


Napa , California. In the flood-prone valley of the Napa River lies the world-class traveler’s destination of Napa, California. Over the span of 36 years (1961 – 1997), a total of 19 floods caused more than $542 million in residential property damage alone. That total does not include economic losses in the tourism industry, environmental damage, or the loss of human lives. During a 1986 flood, 20 inches of rain fell in a 48-hour period, resulting in 3 deaths, the destruction of 250 homes, damage to 2,500 homes, and the evacuation of 5,000 residents. Flood events in March 1995 and January 1997 were similarly destructive. The City of Napa subsequently embarked on an ambitious effort to mitigate flood losses in the community. The Napa River – Napa Creek Flood Protection Project was voted into reality by the passage of Napa County Measure A in March 1998. This half-cent local sales tax levy passed by the citizens of Napa County provided a funding mechanism for the local share of the project cost and helped solidify the partnership between the Napa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District (NCFCWCD) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Measure A funds flood protection, drainage improvements, dam safety, and watershed management projects for each community in Napa County and in the unincorporated area of the county. The project was still ongoing in 2006 and components include the following: the acquisition and removal of more than 50 mobile homes, 16 residences, and 28 commercial buildings from flood-prone areas; the creation of over 400 acres of emergent marsh and 150 acres of seasonal wetlands; the removal, reconstruction, and elevation of several bridges; the elevation of railroad tracks; home and utilities elevations; the creation of structural flood control elements such as widened stream beds, flood walls, levees, and culverts; and the construction of three detention basins with accompanying pump stations. According to NCFCWCD, “ When all these project components are in place, the City of Napa will have a system to keep homes and businesses dry in the future. ” December 2005 was the first test of Napa County’s new flood mitigation efforts when nearly 10 inches fell in a 24-hour period. Local officials were ready for the flood



Some people would argue with the inclusion of insurance as a mitigation tool. Their reason- ing is that insurance by itself really only provides for a transfer of the risk from the individual or community to the insurance company. Although this is true, the NFIP is the prime exam- ple of how, if properly designed, the insurance mechanism can be a tool for mitigation. The NFIP is considered to be one of the most successful mitigation programs ever created.

The NFIP was created by Congress in response to the damages from multiple severe hurricanes and inland flooding and the rising costs of disaster assistance after these floods. At that time, flood insurance was not readily available or affordable through the private insurance market. Because many of the people being affected by this flooding were low-income residents, Congress agreed to subsidize the cost of the insurance so the premiums would be affordable. The idea was to reduce the costs to the government of disaster assistance through insurance. The designers of this program, with great insight, thought the government should get something for their subsidy. So in exchange for the low-cost insurance, they required that communities pass an ordinance directing future development away from the floodplain.

The NFIP was designed as a voluntary program and, as such, did not prosper during its early years, even though flooding disaster continued. Then in 1973, after Hurricane Agnes, the legislation was modified significantly. The purchase of federal flood insurance became mandatory on all federally backed loans. In other words, anyone buying a property with a Veterans Administration (VA) or Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan had to pur- chase the insurance. Citizen pressure to buy the insurance caused communities to pass ordinances and join the NFIP. The NFIP helped the communities by providing them with a variety of flood hazard maps to define their flood boundaries and set insurance rates.

The 1993 Midwest floods triggered another major reform to the NFIP. This act strength- ened the compliance procedures. It told communities that if they didn’t join the program,

and had already placed sandbags and warned residents. Within four days of the flood the City had placed debris containers around town which greatly facilitated cleanup and repair. At the time of the December 2005 floods, officials estimated that the project was only 40% completed. Nevertheless, significant economic losses were avoided. A sense of confidence in the economic vitality of the City of Napa is evidenced by an all-time high in construction activity for both the residential and commercial sectors, the opening of four new downtown restaurants, the proposal for three new hotels, and an increase in commercial assessment in the downtown area. In addition to mitigating flood losses, the community has placed a revitalized, healthy river as the centerpiece of Napa. Many people now take advantage of the resources the river has to offer, including fishing, boating, walking along river trails, bird watching, and scenic dining. For up-to-date information on flood mitigation activities in Napa County, please visit the Napa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District website.

Source : FEMA. � 3045

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they would be eligible for disaster assistance only one time. Any further request would be denied. As a positive incentive, the act established a Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) fund for flood planning, flood mitigation grants, and additional policy coverage for meet- ing the tougher compliance requirements such as building elevation.

Over the years, the NFIP has created other incentive programs such as the Community Rating System. This program offers reduced insurance premiums to communities that go beyond the minimum floodplain ordinance requirements. The NFIP represents one of the best public/private partnerships. Through the Write Your Own program, private insurers are given incentives to market and sell flood insurance.

Today more than 20,000 communities in the NFIP have mitigation programs in place. Other attempts have been made to duplicate this program for wind and earthquake haz- ards, but these have not received the support necessary to pass in Congress. If another major earthquake occurs, the issue of creating a federally supported earthquake or all- hazards insurance will resurface.

Major disasters commonly instigate changes within the national and international private insurance industries, as firms attempt to adjust operations such that they are able to continue profitable operations according to newly acquired hazard information. Industry changes resulting from the 9/11 terrorist events, which focused solely on dam- ages caused by a perceived “ long-shot ” subsequent terrorism incident, focused on the availability of specialized terrorism insurance (and affected mainly a business clientele). However, Hurricane Katrina, which ranked as the costliest U.S. disaster, with between $40 to $55 billion in insured losses, has resulted in new changes whose impacts are just beginning to be understood and that are expected to profoundly affect the ever-growing coastal populations who depend on insurance coverage for financial security.

The insurance industry was lambasted during the recovery from Hurricane Katrina when it was reported that victims often faced long delays in receiving their insurance checks or, even worse, were informed that their insurance coverage did not apply to the type of damage that was caused by the hurricane (many victims found themselves without coverage when it was determined that their damages were not caused by wind, which was covered in their policies, but rather by the excluded storm surge hazard). Class action lawsuits gave many of these Gulf Coast victims some recourse, but they have in turn caused the insurance industry to reconsider whether risk assessments of coastal areas are still valid if insurers are being mandated to pay damages on events their original calculations did not consider. As a result, the insurance industry has steadily withdrawn their coverage from many of these Gulf Coast areas and in coastal areas as far away as Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, claiming that new conditions brought about by the lawsuits would require them to raise premiums to unaffordable levels. State Farm Insurance, the nation’s largest residential insurer and one of the largest companies operating on the Gulf Coast (which paid over $1 billion in claims in Mississippi alone fol- lowing Katrina), has refused to renew policies that cover homes within 1,000 feet of the water. Allstate Insurance Company has canceled or refused renewed coverage in a dozen coastal states.


However , residents in coastal areas are not the only people who will feel the ramifi- cations from such costly megaevents. Industry experts predict that policy premiums will rise, even if slightly, in all “ catastrophe-prone ” areas regardless of risk level to ensure ample backing of all policies within the risk pool. In Louisiana, the state Insurance Rating Commission has approved premium rate increases of over 23 percent in some cases. Many may even find it difficult to acquire insurance as companies pull out of these areas in favor of low-risk, “ safe ” markets (where policies may even decrease due to competition for low-risk policies). Those living in areas where no company will provide coverage have traditionally been able to find policies under state-provided “ pools ” like the Mississippi Wind Pool. However, even those resources are experiencing rate hikes over 250 percent. With no insurance options, many people in these affected areas are choosing to rebuild elsewhere in places where they are able to better protect themselves.

Some states are considering state-run hurricane insurance programs. Florida was the first to approve a measure that would lower insurance premiums by pledging up to $32 billion of state money to back insurers of homeowners whose houses have been damaged or destroyed by a hurricane. The money for this “ state catastrophic fund ” will come from increased taxes on houses and automobiles and on other types of insurance policies that are sold in Florida. Florida state officials, recognizing that, unlike floods, not all states are affected by hurricanes, have appealed to their neighbor states that share similar risks to join the program and make it more effective in the event of a future hurricane as destructive as Katrina.

Structural Controls

Structural controls are controversial as a mitigation tool. Structural controls usually have been used to protect existing development. In doing so, they can have both positive and negative effects on the areas they are not protecting. In addition, as the name implies, they are used to control the hazard, not reduce it. Invariably, as was seen so graphically in the Midwest floods, the structures lose control and nature wins; however, in some cir- cumstances, structural controls are the only alternative.

The most common form of structural control is the levee ( Figure 3-4 ). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has designed and built levees as flood-control structures across the United States. Levees are part of the aging infrastructure of America. As mitigation tools, they have obvious limitations. They can be overtopped or breached, as in the 1993 Midwest floods; they can give residents a false sense of safety that often promotes increased development; and they can exacerbate the hazard in other locations. After the 1993 floods, a major rethinking of dependency on levees has occurred. Efforts are being made to acquire structures built behind the levees, new design criteria are being considered, and other more wetland-friendly policies are being adopted. For a city like New Orleans, however, which is built below sea level and where relocation is impractical, levees can be used effectively to protect flood-prone areas.

Other structural controls are intended to protect coastal areas. Seawalls, bulk- heads, breakwaters, groins, and jetties are intended to stabilize the beach or reduce the

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impacts of wave action. These structures are equally controversial because they protect in one place and increase the damage in another. New Jersey’s shoreline is a prime exam- ple of the failure of seawalls as a solution to shoreline erosion problems. Cape May, New Jersey, where cars used to be raced on the beach, lost all of its beachfront. An ongoing beach replenishment project is the only thing that has brought some of it back. Figure 3-5 shows another example of erosion mitigation.

FIGURE 3-4 Valley City, North Dakota, April 13, 2009. Members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers inspect the site of a levee where severe seepage threatens the integrity of the levee in downtown Valley City, North Dakota. The Corps is working with city officials and the National Guard to ensure the safety of the levees in the town. Photo by Patsy Lynch/FEMA.

FIGURE 3-5 Sargent County, North Dakota, May 4, 2009. Rocks and an angled culvert help prevent bank erosion on drain 11 in Sargent County. Many areas of North Dakota were covered with floodwater weeks after the storms and floods occurred in March. Eliud Echevarria/FEMA.



Grapevine , Texas. Oak Grove Park’s ball field complex, located in Grapevine, Texas, was built in the 1960s and is home to local baseball and soccer teams. Over the years, surface water resulting from inadequate drainage, along with additions to the park, caused flood and maintenance issues and posed problems for pedestrians.

Acting upon requests and recommendations for new fields, the city of Grapevine came up with a master plan that involved creating berms, drainage ditches and retention walls, installing storm water drainage pipes, uprooting and replanting trees, and elevating the land in targeted areas to prevent future flooding of the park. Kevin Mitchell, Assistant Director of Parks and project manager, explained, “ During the design and development stage, I along with several staff members toured many, many complexes. We wanted to look at the good as well as the bad. And we tried not to make the same mistakes that we noted. ”

The first obstacle was the temporary removal of hundreds of oak trees. Grapevine, Texas, is a member of “ Tree City USA, ” a tree planting and tree care program sponsored by the National Arbor Day Foundation for cities and towns in the United States. A temporary tree farm and irrigation system were created to house and nourish the relocated trees during construction. Construction occurred around groups of trees that could not be uprooted. “ We spent just shy of one-fourth of a million dollars digging up trees, moving them, and then moving them back, ” said Mitchell.

By nature, storm water collects debris, chemicals, dirt, and other pollutants before flowing into a storm sewer system or directly into a lake, stream, river, or wetland. Hence, the planners used storm water management as a tool to prevent this debris from entering the water system. “ We used storm scepters, something new to the project, to separate the sand, silt, and clay and keep debris from going back into the lake, ” said Mitchell. The scepters allow water to enter into a swirl chamber, where it is filtered before moving into a “ floatable ” chamber. There, general debris is collected before the water is sent to the outlet chamber for disbursement into Lake Grapevine. Berms, raised mounds of soil, were created as an additional filtering system, allowing water to flow through grassy areas that serve as a biofiltering system before it reaches the lake. Design and development also included land elevation at varying heights. For example, the area where the newly constructed concession building and public restrooms are located was elevated above nine feet. Retention walls were strategically placed to stabilize the soil from runoff and erosion, especially since tiered landscaping was utilized throughout the park. It also created useable land. Stone pavers created a solid surface for sidewalks but water was still able to drain into the ground through the spaces between the pavers.

The Oak Grove ball field complex now backs to Lake Grapevine. Part of the project was to irrigate the athletic field with water from Lake Grapevine. An irrigation pond that holds approximately 3.5 million gallons of water was created, and a pumping station was built. Water is purchased from Dallas, which is a savings for the park.

According to Mitchell, transformation of the 33-acre park into a sports haven cost approximately $13 million, and construction was completed within ten months. “ The good thing about this is that we paid cash for the project, ” said Mitchell. “ We used tax money spent by people coming into our town to shop. ”

The design development stage took nearly a year to complete, but it was time well spent. Visiting Oak Grove Park’s ball field complex after a heavy rain is no longer a problem thanks

Chapter 3 ● The Disciplines of Emergency Management: Mitigation 83

Impediments to Mitigation If so many tools can be applied, why haven’t risk-reduction and risk-mitigation programs been more widely applied? Some of the reasons are denial of the risk, political will, costs and a lack of funding, and taking on the issue. Despite the best technical knowledge, his- toric occurrence, public education, and media attention, many individuals don’t want to recognize that they or their communities are vulnerable. Recognition requires action, and it could have economic consequences as businesses decide to locate elsewhere if they find the community is at risk. Some people are willing to try to beat the odds, but if a disaster strikes, they know the government will help them out. Gradually, however, such attitudes are changing. Potential liability issues are making communities more aware, media attention to disasters has brought public pressure, and the government has pro- vided both incentives for, and penalties for not, taking action.

As previously mentioned, mitigation provides a long-term benefit. The U.S. political system tends to focus on short-term rewards. Developers are large players in the political process and often are concerned that mitigation means additional costs. Mitigation strat- egies and actions require political vision and will. When Tip O’Neill was Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, he said, “ All politics is local. ” Well, so is mitigation. Local elected officials are the individuals who have to promote, market, and endorse adopting risk reduction as a goal. For many elected officials, the development pressures are too much, funding is lacking, and other priorities dominate their agendas; however, with the increasing attention to the economic, social, and political costs of not dealing with their risks, more elected officials are recognizing that they can’t afford to not take action.

Mitigation costs money. Most mitigation of new structures or development can be passed on to the builder or buyer without much notice. Programs to retrofit existing structures or acquisition and relocation projects are expensive and almost always beyond

to the steps taken to reduce or eliminate long-term risks to both people and property. Good mitigation planning and cooperation with local authorities worked together to create a paradise for Little Leaguers that will be enjoyed for years to come.

Source : FEMA.;jsessionid � 4F92446D3E1C2D38CA1BA 62E7EBACCD4. WorkerTheCage?mitssId � 7032

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