Task 4: Appraise Community Capabilities


In the previous three tasks, we discussed the process of mitigation planning, who should participate in the process and the methods to involve them. Starting with Task 4, we’ll discuss what is achieved during the planning process. Task 4 mainly explains the important step of reviewing the existing policies, authorities, resources, and programs of your community that can help mitigate the hazards and disasters.

A capability assessment helps in determining a local jurisdiction’s capability to execute a mitigation strategy. In addition, it can spot prospective opportunities for improving or implementing specific mitigation programs or policies. A capability assessment determines which activities, objectives, and goals are possible for a particular jurisdiction. A strong capability assessment identifies which mitigation actions are realistic and/or practical to implement over time based on the political climate and level of technical, administrative, and fiscal resources.

Capability assessments also look at other existing plans the community has adopted such as land use or comprehensive plans and capital improvement plans. In some cases, these plans can work at cross purposes. For example, a capital improvement plan may call for extending water and sewer lines to an area that is vulnerable to natural hazards, such as a floodplain. Emergency managers, planners and others in a community should coordinate in preparing plans to ensure consistency across plans; that is, consistent goals, policies, and strategies.

Previous FEMA guidance did not adequately describe the requirements for a capability assessment in local hazard mitigation plans. FEMA requires that “a plan must describe each jurisdiction’s existing authorities, policies, programs, and resources available to accomplish hazard mitigation” (44 CFR, Part 201.6(c) (3)), and the FEMA Handbook now includes better guidance on this requirement. Because of this, many pre-2012 hazard mitigation plans contain very weak capability assessments or none at all.

Some of the best practices include:
• A table to clearly show each jurisdiction’s self assessment of their capability
• An overview of each jurisdiction’s existing plans and policies relevant to hazard mitigation, a summary of the document, how effective it is for mitigation and how it could be more effective
• A list of existing local outreach efforts that could be used for of hazard-related communication
• A summary of each jurisdiction’s participation in the National Flood Insurance Program
• A map of floodplains based on community’s projected growth
• A map of areas that have been repeatedly flooded

The above recommendations exceed the basic FEMA requirements to create a strong capability assessment that will help guide a realistic and feasible mitigation strategy given available resources and capacity.