Institute for Hazard Mitigation Planning and Research

Task 3: Outreach Strategy

Task 3: Outreach Strategy/h2>

Structure Outreach Strategy
Consider the outreach strategy as a three-tier plan: 1.) planning team, 2.) stakeholders, and 3.) the public (see Figure). For each tier, the method, timeframe, and level of effort or commitment are different. Task 2 described how to assemble and engage the planning team. Task 3 lays emphasis on the participation of the public and stakeholders.


A stakeholder can be a person, agency, institution, or group that can influence or be influenced by the mitigation actions. Stakeholders participating in the planning process can help support the hazard plan and recognize barriers to completion. Additionally, mitigation planning includes information from various subject matter experts, as well as technical and scientific sources.

The stakeholders participating in the planning process comprise agencies authorized to regulate development, academia, and businesses, neighboring communities, local and regional agencies with expertise in hazard mitigation actions, and other non-profit and private interests (see Element A2 below). Task 2 described the significance of the participation of agencies authorized to regulate development, and local and regional agencies with expertise in carrying out hazard mitigation actions. Stakeholders may not participate in all stages of the planning process like planning team members. However, they may offer inputs from various points of view in the community or frequently inform the planning team on a specific matter.

As per the Federal laws, those stakeholders should also be invited to participate in the planning process that are not part of the participating jurisdictions and neighboring communities in the planning area (see Element A2). This would include neighboring counties and municipalities that are affected by similar hazards or threats, or may even include agencies involved in mitigation actions. For instance, neighboring communities could participate in the planning process upon receiving an invitation in the form of an email or letter which would be sent to the local representatives or emergency managers of the adjacent jurisdictions. Such outreach activities will encourage their participation as well as their valuable inputs in the development of the mitigation plan.

Based on community resources and unique traits, each jurisdiction may define other interested stakeholders. Following stakeholders are important in any mitigation planning process:
1.) Planning commission members and elected representatives: Elected representatives are responsible to protect the health, wellbeing, and safety of their communities. These governing agencies typically adopt the mitigation plan before getting approval from FEMA. The implementation and progress of the plan are largely determined by the level of support provided by the elected representatives to the goals and actions of the mitigation plan. It also exhibits your community’s disaster-resilience.
2.) Business heads and big companies: The recovery of a community post-disaster is driven by its economic resiliency. One of the key components of the hazard planning process is to spot those economic drivers and assets whose losses and failure to function would severely hamper the ability of a community to recover from a disaster. Active participation of the business heads, the local chamber of commerce, and economic development representatives in the planning process; and making them aware of the local threats and risks, will encourage them to become partners in the future mitigation planning process.
3.) State, federal, and Regional agencies: Agencies at the state, federal, and regional levels, such as geological surveys, regional planning, emergency management, forestry divisions, weather service, and dam safety, provide key data and technical information in addition to financial assistance. The programs developed by these agencies may complement the objectives of your mitigation plan.
4.) Cultural hubs: Cultural hubs such as theatres, libraries, and museums, often have typical mitigation requirements. For instance, the historic building or house collections, wherever they may be located, might need special protection from natural or man-made hazards. Such institutes may also possess historic data on disasters in your community such as earthquakes, fires, and floods. For more information, see Integrating Historic Property and Cultural Resource Considerations into Hazard Mitigation Planning (FEMA 386-6).
5.) Universities and Colleges: Academic institutions like universities and colleges can help provide valuable information to assist with the mitigation planning efforts, for example, GIS mapping and analysis, natural hazards data, or research on successful methods to diminish threats and risks. The hazard planning team can collaborate with a local university or college to allow students to participate in the planning process, or assist with the research and analysis required for the mitigation plan. Choose students from departments such as geology, urban planning, geography, environmental studies, and emergency management. By participating in the planning process, the students will understand the risks and diminish the threats in their respective communities.
6.) Non-profit agencies: Such organizations often serve as advocates for citizens and can play a significant role in public outreach, sharing of information, and gaining support for the mitigation actions. Some examples of non-profit agencies include various disaster preparedness and response associations like the local Red Cross; historic preservation groups; parks, recreation, or conservation organizations; parent-teacher organizations; and church organizations.
7.) Neighborhood associations: Many neighborhood and homeowner associations are actively involved in community activities. Such associations can help gain valuable information about local risks and provide feasible mitigation solutions in particular areas. These can also help with plan outreach by the distribution of information via periodic meetings and newsletters. Contact groups such as CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams). They have knowledge of hazards and threats, and they are more willing to make their community disaster-resilient.

In the above-mentioned categories, contemplate how to include the organizations serving disabled people to make sure that all individuals with access and functional needs should have equal access and meaningful participation without discrimination.
An outreach strategy will help to determine the appropriate stakeholder to participate and the desired contributions in the planning process. Based on your community’s needs and timeframe for the development of the plan, eligible stakeholders could be contacted directly on a priority basis. This should form part of your community outreach.

Following are some benefits of successful outreach:
• It helps educate and inform the public about hazards and disasters.
• It helps identify conflicts and integrates diverse priorities and perspectives early in the planning process.
• It helps maximize opportunities for successful plan completion through greater public acceptance and consensus.
• It helps invite interested stakeholders to offer their ideas and views on mitigation.
• It helps develop trust and ensure transparency.
• It helps gather information to improve the plan’s quality and accuracy.


An opportunity should also be given to the general public to participate in the planning process rather than just informing them about the development of the plan. A strong public outreach can help educate them about the risks and motivate them to take action. Private properties could be affected by many mitigation actions. Thus, it’s better to engage the public early to make them understand the priorities of the community. Furthermore, the public may not have the technical expertise, but they can help identify problem areas and community assets, explain concerned issues, report hazard and threat history, prioritize proposed mitigation options, and offer ideas for continuous public involvement after the successful implementation of the plan.

Develop Effective Outreach Strategy

The PIO (public information official) or public relations in your community offer valuable services such as coordinating public information sharing, working with the media, and helping to generate messages during the mitigation planning process. Following are some proven steps that your planning team can adopt to develop an effective outreach strategy with or without the help of a designated PIO:
1.) Devise outreach actions: During the project kick-off meeting, when the planning team conducts a brainstorming session to recognize stakeholders, they can also determine how and when to conduct outreach actions. When updating an existing plan, the planning team must assess the outreach actions conducted in the previous planning process and make any necessary changes.
2.) Public outreach schedule and objectives: Determine what inputs are required from the stakeholders and the public. Think about how they can contribute to the mitigation strategy, risk assessment, and development of the capability review. This will help you establish the goals of your outreach strategy. Once the planning team confirms a schedule of tasks and meetings to complete or update the plan, revisit the project schedule to recognize the appropriate times when you can inform and seek input from the public and stakeholders. For instance, after the completion of the risk assessment when the planning team starts to develop the mitigation strategy, the public can be invited to provide inputs. Public participation at this juncture will give you the opportunity to inform them about the findings of the risk assessment, gather input on data inaccuracies, and comprehend their priorities and ideas for a range of mitigation actions.
3.) Seek appropriate outreach techniques: The appropriate techniques to reach out to the public and stakeholders may be driven by planning schedule, budget, and needs as described by the planning team. Targeted methods should be used to engage and involve stakeholders for specific inputs, for example, online surveys, telephone interviews, one-on-one briefings, presentations to specific groups, roundtable discussions, and personal invitations to public outreach actions.
If your community has of late been distressed by a disaster, their interest in hazards and mitigation might be heightened. You can utilize this heightened interest to engage the community members in finding ways to reduce risks in future events. If your community has not lately been distressed by hazard events, the public won’t be interested in attending the meeting that mainly focuses on hazard mitigation. The planning team can help find the effective methods of public participation that earlier worked well in your community. It helps to reach out to the public rather than expecting them to approach you. So, instead of holding a meeting that solely focuses on hazard mitigation, booth set-up at a popular community event or discussing the hazard plan at a scheduled meeting would help reach a larger section of the audience.
To reach out to the public throughout the planning process, you can use a variety of informational methods and materials like social media, news media, surveys, flyers, and websites. Develop related content for Facebook sharing and Twitter messaging. The activities to involve the public must include methods to raise public awareness by giving information and seeking input to inform the content of the plan to the public.
All public should have equal access to your outreach materials and activities. Also, ensure meaningful involvement of people with access and functional needs; people from diverse backgrounds (ethnically and racially); members of underserved populations; people with limited or without English proficiency; children and senior citizens. (See Table 3.1)
4.) Create clear and consistent messages: The outreach messages should be clear, consistent, and in line with community values. Reflect on the overarching objectives and the community values, as well as how these can help reduce hazards and disasters. Develop outreach messages that appeal to the community and personalize talking points to discuss with audiences from diverse backgrounds. For instance, if a historic downtown or a specific landscape is important to the economy and identity of a community, your mitigation messages should emphasize the need for the long-term protection of these assets.
5.) Assess and integrate feedback: Your outreach activities, for example, surveys, questionnaires, and comments at the meetings and on plan drafts, will receive feedback. These should be assessed and integrated into the decision-making process of the planning team to help prepare the final plan. Communicate clearly to the public and stakeholders about how their feedback is used by the planning team to inform the plan throughout the outreach process. Build a process to organize and assess the comments received, and incorporate them in the final plan.
6.) Public review of the final draft plan: Prior to the plan adoption, an opportunity should be given to the public to appraise and comment on the final draft plan. Distribute copies of the draft plan in the community center, city hall, local library, and post it on the website of the community. Set a timeframe of at least four weeks for people to review and comment. Also provide them some guidance on what the type of feedback and reviews you are seeking, for example, feedback on the prioritization of the mitigation actions and recognition of community assets in the hazard plan. Issue a press release on the community’s website and in the local newspaper to inform the public about the availability of the draft plan for review and comment purposes. Many jurisdictions have policies prepared for the public review of the draft plan prior to its adoption.
Element A3: Opportunity should be given to the public to participate in the planning process and have a say on the plan, prior to its approval during the drafting stage. 44 CFR §201.6(b)(1)