The first task, once your community makes a decision to create or update its hazard mitigation plan, is to ascertain the overall scope of the mitigation planning project. Task 1 explains how to decide the planning area, who will lead the plan, the participating jurisdictions, and the resources required to sustain the planning process. Your community can opt to create its own single jurisdiction plan or develop a multi-jurisdictional plan by associating with neighboring jurisdictions.

A good plan should include:
• A map showing the boundaries of the jurisdiction(s) covered by the plan
• A list of participating jurisdictions and whether or not they participated in previous versions of the plan
• A list of the agencies and persons who led the planning process

Ascertain the Planning Area

The geographic area covered by the hazard mitigation plan represents the planning area. Usually, the planning area follows the boundaries of the local government jurisdiction, for example, cities, provinces, rural communities, or planning districts. The planning areas may also represent various natural features like watersheds, mainly where disasters cause similar threats across jurisdictional boundaries. The boundaries of a jurisdiction may also include or cross over other jurisdictions, for example, a utility or a fire protection district.

To ascertain the appropriate planning area, the communities can seek help from the SHMO (State Hazard Mitigation Officer) or state emergency management agency. The communities can base this determination on State planning objectives and planning priorities for grant funding.

Updating the Mitigation Plan

It’s better to ascertain if the planning area described in the earlier approved plan is still appropriate, in case you opt to update the mitigation plan of your community. Appraise any feedback received in the previous planning process and the lessons learned. Reflect on whether the goals of the mitigation planning of your community were fulfilled by the preceding planning efforts or updating the mitigation plan and the participating jurisdictions would benefit your community.

Existing Planning Projects and Partnerships

Based on the existing planning efforts, partnerships, and relationships, there are countless potential options for the planning area. Think about whether your community is presently associated with regional organizations, government councils, or other recognized multi-jurisdictional partnerships for planning mitigation actions. These actions could be related to transportation, watershed protection, or comprehensive planning. Jurisdictions may receive development review or emergency management services by their respective counties. Therefore, a countywide hazard plan could be a good approach since such mitigation planning actions coordinate well with the mitigation planning objectives.

Before starting the planning process, make sure if it’s possible to align or integrate other planning efforts with your community’s mitigation plan to save money and time. It will help achieve better results for your community.

For example, the development of the mitigation plan could be integrated into the process, for updating the comprehensive plan of your community. Or, if the community takes part in the CRS (Community Rating System), the mitigation planning process could be planned to take advantage of CRS credit for any management planning, such as floodplain.

If your community exceeds the minimum standards for floodplain management under the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program), then as per a FEMA program, CSR will reward your community by offering flood insurance premium discounts to all the policy-holders in your community. Check Worksheet 1.1 that cross-references the CRS and the requirements for mitigation planning.

Coordinating Multi-Jurisdictional Plan

Mull over the pros and cons of adopting a single or multi-jurisdiction plan. Single jurisdiction plans will ensure your community the full autonomy and sole discretion to conduct its planning process. It can be appropriate for any community, no matter what the size is.  But, single jurisdictions may restrict the opportunities for sharing resources across the communities as well as coordinated planning. Following are some of the strengths and weaknesses of multi-jurisdictional plans:

Benefits and Challenges of Multi-Jurisdictional Plans


Following are some of the benefits of the multi-jurisdictional planning processes:

  • Facilitates wide-ranging mitigation approaches to diminish risks that influence multiple jurisdictions.
  • Enhances communication and group effort among jurisdictions and other regional bodies.
  • Prevents repetition of efforts.
  • Makes the best use of the economies of scale by sharing resources and costs, and leveraging individual capabilities.
  • Offers an organizational structure that supports local jurisdictions.


Following are some of the disadvantages of the multi-jurisdictional planning process:

  • The process involves the participation of multiple jurisdictions and the coordination between them. They may have different priorities, capabilities, and histories.
  • Diminishes individual ownership and control over the planning process.
  • Needs a single plan document of large amounts of information about the organization.
  • Each jurisdiction needs to document specific information on mitigation actions and local risks.

If you believe that the best alternative for your community is to participate in a multi-jurisdictional planning process, then mull over whether it’s appropriate to start a new multi-jurisdictional plan or join an existing planning effort. In general, multi-jurisdictional planning is most effective when jurisdictions have successfully partnered in the past, have similar capabilities and needs, face similar disasters or threats, and function under the same authorities.

You may consider entering a partnership with neighboring jurisdictions and other governmental agencies, for instance, service or utility districts, transportation authorities, and school districts. Certain districts have a vested interest in diminishing the impacts of hazards and threats if they specifically offer services to accelerate recovery efforts. In those geographic areas where natural calamities are common such as wind storms, tornadoes, and ice storms, government agencies like municipal electrical utilities and rural electrical cooperatives are willing to become mitigation partners. An Indian Tribe acknowledged by a Federal agency can also participate in a multi-jurisdictional plan. But, the Tribe ought to fulfill the requirements mentioned in 44 CFR §201.7, Tribal Mitigation Planning. Above all, look for those jurisdictions that can help get the most out of the benefits of the multi-jurisdictional planning process as explained in the sidebar.

Once the participating jurisdictions and planning area are identified, make efforts to secure a level of commitment from every single participant. At the beginning of the planning process, tell all the participating jurisdictions to sign a Letter of Intent or MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) that outlines the prerequisites for each participating jurisdiction. In Worksheet 1.2, you can find the sample MOU for a multi-jurisdictional planning team.

All organizations and jurisdictions are allowed to participate in the planning process. But, they all need to fulfill all the requirements of 44 CFR §201.6 in order to get approval from FEMA. Following are the additional requirements specified by the federal regulations for multi-jurisdictional plans:

  • The hazard assessment should evaluate the risk of each jurisdiction where they may differ from the risks facing the whole planning area. (44 CFR §201.6(c)(2)(iii))
  • Recognize identifiable action plans specific to each jurisdiction that is seeking the credit of the plan or approval from FEMA. (44 CFR §201.6(c)(3)(iv))
  • Each jurisdiction seeking plan approval from FEMA needs to document the plan that is or has been formally implemented. (44 CFR §201.6(c)(5))

All the participating jurisdictions seeking plan approval must be clearly listed in the mitigation plan. It is recommended to include a map that shows the planning area’s jurisdictional boundaries.

Strong Leadership for Planning Process & Technical Assistance

Strong leadership is required all through the planning process whether the community has decided to participate in a multi-jurisdictional planning process or develop a single jurisdiction plan. The first important step is to appoint the person or agency with leadership qualities to lead the mitigation planning effort.

In the planning process, those local agencies that have vested interest and responsibility in mitigation must be included. For instance, in local government, the staff of the community planning and development, and emergency management possesses unique knowledge and experience. They can be the natural leaders for your community’s mitigation planning process. The community planning and development agencies are familiar with land use plans, zoning and subdivision regulations, long-term funding and planning mechanisms to implement mitigation strategies and economic development initiatives. Their staff may also be trained to develop a plan document, conduct meetings, and facilitate public outreach. The staff of the local emergency management is considerate of local hazards, threats, outcomes, and risks. They also may have extensive experience working with Federal and State agencies on mitigation plans and actions.

Besides leadership, determine which agency has the time as well as resources to carry out the entire hazard planning process. Additionally, each participating jurisdiction in the multi-jurisdictional plans determines a lead envoy to coordinate the planning process of their community.

Technical Assistance

It takes time and effort to carry out mitigation planning. Have knowledge of the available resources such as human, financial and technical that your jurisdiction possesses to implement the hazard planning efforts. Opting for a multi-jurisdictional planning effort will combine resources with other jurisdictions that may help leverage expertise in the subject matter, and save time and money. On the other hand, technical assistance may be required for the plan preparation or specific parts of the planning process. To develop the plan, if outside technical assistance is required, determine how to leverage this assistance to build community capabilities in the long-term.

No formal training in community planning, science or engineering is required to develop a mitigation plan. However, it can be useful to gain some expertise in certain areas.
For example:

  • Recognize hazards, appraise vulnerabilities, and comprehend considerable risks.
  • Facilitate decision making actions, public involvement, and meetings for the planning team.
  • Create an organized, practical, and purposeful plan document, which includes maps or other related graphics.

When considering outside technical assistance for the development of your hazard plan, you can choose from several different options. You can either work with a local university (such as our research center) that offers emergency management or planning degree programs or contract with your regional planning agency. You can even get in touch with another community that has successfully finished the planning process and seek suggestions. Prior to getting any outside technical assistance, think about the scope of work, the level of assistance needed, and the extent of interaction between the members of the planning team and the service providers.

Private consultants can also be sought to assist in the facilitation, coordination, and implementation of your community’s mitigation planning process.
When you decide to hire a private consultant, look for an expert community planner who can:

  • Comprehend all the regulations and policies applicable to the mitigation plan, which includes FEMA guidance, federal law, and local and state ordinances.
  • Exhibit experience and knowledge with community development and land use.
  • Identify the unique geographic, demographic, political, and technical considerations of each participating jurisdiction.
  • Demonstrate familiarity with the concepts of a multi-hazard mitigation plan and emergency management.
  • Understand that public participation and community input are essential for the success of any mitigation plan.
  • Provide references and exhibit past performance.


Your community will ascertain the planning area and determine the overall scope of the hazard planning.  Some common approaches to defining the planning area include updating the existing planning efforts or participating in the multi-jurisdiction plan.  The first important step is to appoint a local lead for your community plan and if needed, seek outside technical assistance.  Both single and multi-jurisdictional plans share a similar commitment to developing a community plan to diminish risks from hazards.