The purpose of the planning initiative was to reduce future damage from the full range of natural and man-made disasters, streamline the disaster recovery process, and capitalize on Federal funding that might become available. It will also help localities maintain their eligibility for certain future Federal funding. After November 1, 2004, FEMA will condition Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds on local governments having FEMA-approved Hazard Mitigation Plans in place. A FEMA-approved Mitigation Plan is also required for eligibility for participation in the Emergency Management Performance Grant Program and in projects under the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program.
The Planning Product
The product of the planning process is a comprehensive, all-hazard Hazard Mitigation Action Plan that meets all State and Federal requirements. The plan addresses the full range of natural and technological hazards facing the Guadalupe River Basin — potentially including such natural hazards as floods, dam failures, tornadoes and high winds, hurricanes, fires, urban and wildland fires, drought and extreme heat and man-made hazards such as pipeline accidents, hazardous materials incidents and terrorism.
Because most of these hazards know no boundaries, a basin-wide planning approach was utilized. FEMA and the State Division of Emergency Management (DEM) encourage this type of approach. With multiple jurisdictions working together and focusing on common risks faced in the basin, a multi-jurisdictional approach provides greater efficiency, saving time and expense by eliminating the need for each local jurisdiction to devise its own approach and prepare its own separate plan document. Further, this type of planning effort results in a common plan format and loss estimation techniques that will help the State and FEMA project vulnerabilities on a regional basis and evaluate future projects for grant awards.
In addition to the overall basin-wide plan, each local jurisdiction has its own separate section of the plan as part of the overall, basin-wide plan. Each local jurisdiction’s plan has been reviewed and is being adopted by its governing body.
Process of Development
The entire plan complies with the State of Texas Planning Standards for Mitigation Action Plans (Annex P, items P-29 through P-52), issued by the State Division of Emergency Management in the Texas Department of Public Safety. It also complies with Section 201 of Section 44 of the Code of Federal Regulations. As required, the planning process involved the steps listed below:
1. Assess capabilities
Information will be gathered from each jurisdiction on their technical, fiscal, legal, administrative and other capabilities to carry out hazard mitigation activities. The results will be evaluated. Attention will be given to state, regional or local plans, regulations and development requirements. These may include, but are not limited to, local plans, zoning laws, sub-division and site-specific regulations, building codes, flood insurance programs, natural resources and conservation statutes. As required by Annex P, information will also be gathered to help evaluate the effectiveness of existing mitigation measures, policies, plans, practices and programs.
2. Identify Hazards
During this step, information was compiled on the occurrence of hazard events in and around participating communities. Hazards that affect the basin will be identified based on historical and other data. The consultant team will search nationally available data sources for listings of hazard events, by County, and provide a list of top hazards to local jurisdictions for review and comment. Jurisdictions will review the list of hazard events and amend the list, as appropriate. Examples of hazards that may affect the planning area include: flooding, hurricanes and tropical systems, tornadoes and wind storms, hailstorms, severe winter storms, earthquakes, fires, drought, extreme heat, dam failure, hazardous materials incidents, fuel pipeline accidents and terrorism.
3. Conduct Risk Assessment
This involved gathering and compiling data, including an inventory of assets that may be affected by hazards, such as people, housing units, critical facilities, special facilities, infrastructure and lifelines, hazardous materials facilities and commercial facilities. The consultant team assessed potential impacts from each hazard using FEMA’s Hazards U.S. (HAZUS) multi-hazard loss estimation model and other modeling techniques. The resulting information provided local jurisdictions with information on the full range of hazards they face and potential casualties, damages and economic losses.
4. Develop mitigation strategies
During this step, goals, objectives and actions to reduce the damage from each hazard were identified. The consultant team reviewed basin-wide plans, studies and guidance materials and with input from, and approval by, member jurisdictions, draft an overall mitigation strategy for the basin. At the same time, the consultant team provided a detailed “menu” of mitigation options to assist local jurisdictions in identifying actions appropriate for their individual jurisdiction. For those mitigation strategies the local jurisdiction decided to employ, the locality provided a description of the mitigation activities, to include the estimated costs, benefits, entity responsible for accomplishing the action, and implementation and work schedule.
5. Seek public input
To ensure an open process of public involvement in the planning process, as required by the State and FEMA, a series of public meetings was held, one each in the Upper, Middle and Lower Basin. The purpose of the public meetings was to solicit information from the public to help identify hazards affecting entities of the Guadalupe River Basin and take actions to reduce the impact of those hazards. A Hazards Survey was developed to seek information from the public about hazards that have impacted them and recommendations for action to reduce future risks. In addition, each local jurisdiction was responsible for providing an opportunity for the its citizens, including the general public and local stakeholders, to comment on the jurisdictions portion of the plan during the drafting stage and prior to plan approval.
6. Obtain Governing Body Review and Approval of Plans for Each Jurisdiction
In accordance with Federal and State requirements, the Governing Bodies of each participating jurisdiction must review and approve that portion of the overall plan that affects their jurisdiction. To help accomplish that, the consultant team provided a standardized format for documentation of the local jurisdiction’s Governing Body approval and provided support, as requested, to the local jurisdiction as their Governing Body considers the plan.
7. Develop a proposed process to maintain the plan and update it at least every five years
During this step, the contractor drafted a proposed process for consideration by participating jurisdictions, including the methods and schedule for updating the plan as required at least every five years. Participating local jurisdictions will be responsible for incorporating, as appropriate, the actions outlined in the mitigation plan into other planning mechanisms such as comprehensive or capital improvement plans, and for continuing public participation in the plan maintenance process.
8. Obtain State and FEMA approval of the plan
After consolidating individual jurisdiction plans into an overall plan, the entire plan was submitted to the State Division of Emergency Management for review and to FEMA Region VI in Denton, Texas for review and approval. During this step, the consultant team consolidated input, drafted the overall plan document, submitted it for review and approval, and published the final plan document.