October is National Community Planning Month. Community planners around the globe join the American Planning Association in highlighting this year’s theme of “Planning for Infrastructure that Benefits All”. This year, the focus is on how well-planned infrastructure projects strengthen communities, boost the economy, expand opportunity, and promote equitable development. Infrastructure projects include transportation systems, housing, parks, dams and levees, and communication systems, among others.
The topic of well-planned infrastructure is especially relevant to FEMA’s mission as we continue to focus on increasing community resilience across the nation through mitigation activities. A key area of focus is specifically mitigating those infrastructure systems that are considered “lifelines.”
Lifelines are systems, like roads and power, that allow critical government and essential business operations to continue. Lifelines are essential to human health and safety, or economic security. They include police and fire departments, hospitals, power plants, arterial roads, grocery stores, and the cellular towers that connect everything. These often-interconnected systems are, simply put, essential for communities to keep the “lights on.”
The best way to protect lifelines is to include them in your state, local, tribal, or territorial mitigation plans. Over 20,000 communities across the country begin planning for resilient actions and projects in their hazard mitigation plans. Mitigation plans help decision-makers understand their risks from natural hazards and prioritize actions that will reduce the impacts of future events. Often, these actions include improving and investing in lifelines. For example, a mitigation plan can help identify infrastructure-protecting actions like:
- Adopting and enforcing up-to-date building codes
- Retrofitting and strengthening infrasturtucture to resist natural hazard damage
- Raising roads and bridges to maintain dry access during flooding
Plans become a great source for mitigation projects when funding becomes available, whether it is from FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance Program or another source.
Mitigation can and should be a part of everyday considerations, and the important role that planning plays is highlighted under FEMA’s recently released National Mitigation Investment Strategy. Often when people hear the words “hazard mitigation” their minds quickly jump to elevated homes and shelters for riding out storms, but those are only a few of the many great options for protecting where you live, work, and play.
By integrating mitigation plans with community planning processes, we can create safer, more sustainable neighborhoods that make mitigation a part of everyday life. For example, community planners can promote safe growth principles, protecting citizens by encouraging people to live in areas at lesser risk for flooding or earthquakes. Or when designing a new community park, developers could incorporate a drainage pond for storm runoff to reduce flood risks to nearby streets and housing. By including lifelines and risks to hazards in community planning decisions, you not only make your community safer from natural hazards, but more sustainable and resilient as well.
Learn more about National Community Planning Month and those FEMA programs that work with community planners every day here:
- FEMA’s National Community Planning Month
- Mitigation Planning
- National Mitigation Investment Strategy
- National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program
- Floodplain Management
- Building Sciences
- Risk Mapping, Assessment, and Planning (Risk MAP)
- National Dam Safety Program
- Hazard Mitigation Assistance and the upcoming Building Resilient Infrastructure in Communities (BRIC) funding stream
For more information about National Community Planning Month, visit https://www.planning.org/ncpm/.