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The Disaster Mitigation Act

March 8, 2010

The rising costs of natural and human-caused disasters at the end of the 20th century led many leaders to consider how to better protect people and their communities.  Congress passed the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (DMA2K) (PL 106-390) to establish a unified national hazard mitigation program.  DMA2K amended the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1988 (Stafford Act), which in turn had amended the Disaster Relief Act of 1974.  DMA2K placed new emphasis on hazard mitigation planning in state and local units of government, requiring adoption of mitigation plans as a prerequisite for certain assistance programs.

A multi-hazard or “All-Hazards” approach to mitigation planning encompasses both natural and manmade hazards.  Following the 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington, DC, and the subsequent reorganization of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the nation’s homeland security structure, many mitigation planning efforts explicitly incorporated technological hazards arising from human activities, both accidental and intended.  While local hazard mitigation plans are only required to address natural hazards, the All-Hazards approach considers a comprehensive array of both risks and potential mitigation actions.

FEMA has implemented hazard mitigation planning requirements through federal regulations (44 CFR 201).  In Minnesota, the Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) division of the Department of Public Safety (DPS) works with FEMA to implement disaster mitigation efforts.  The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is also involved with mitigation as the agency responsible for implementation of FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and floodplain management in the state.

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Federal Mitigation Funding Programs

FEMA administers several different programs that provide hazard mitigation funding.  Typically grants allow a cost-share of 75 to 90 percent federal funding for eligible projects.  FEMA offers five hazard mitigation assistance programs which are described in detail by HSEM in Section Two of the Minnesota All-Hazard Mitigation Plan.  Any projects funded by these programs must demonstrate a positive cost-benefit ratio—the benefits of the mitigation action must demonstrably outweigh the costs.  Programs described in the MAHMP include the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM), Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA), Repetitive Flood Claims (RFC), and Severe Repetitive Loss (SRL).

Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP)

HMGP provides funds in accordance with priorities identified in hazard mitigation plans to implement mitigation measures during disaster recovery.  State and local governments, certain private non-profit organizations, and tribes are eligible sub-applicants through HSEM.  Examples of eligible projects include:

  • Acquiring and relocating structures from hazard-prone areas
  • Retrofitting structures to protect them from floods, high winds, earthquakes, or other natural hazards
  • Constructing certain types of minor and localized flood control projects
  • Constructing safe rooms inside schools or other buildings in tornado-prone areas
  • Hazard mitigation planning

Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM)

PDM provides funds for hazard mitigation planning and implementation prior to a disaster event.  State-level agencies, tribes, local government, and public colleges are eligible sub-applicants through HSEM.  Examples of eligible projects include:

  • Voluntary acquisition of real property for open space
  • Elevation of existing public or private structures
  • Retrofitting existing structures to meet building codes
  • Construction of safe rooms for public or private structures that meet certain FEMA requirements
  • Hydrologic and hydraulic studies/analyses, engineering and drainage studies for project design and feasibility
  • Vegetation management
  • Protective measures for utilities, water, sewer, roads and bridges
  • Storm water management to reduce/eliminate long-term flood risk

Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA)

FMA implements cost-effective measures to reduce or eliminate long-term risk of flood damage to NFIP structures.  State-level agencies, tribes, and local government are eligible sub-applicants through HSEM.  Eligible projects include:

  • Acquisition, structure demolition, or structure relocation with the property deed restricted for open space uses in perpetuity
  • Elevation of structures
  • Dry floodproofing of non-residential structures
  • Minor structural flood control activities

Repetitive Flood Claims (RFC)

RFC intends to reduce/eliminate long-term risk to structures with one or more NFIP claim.  State-level agencies, tribes, and local government that cannot meet FMA requirements for cost-share or management capacity are eligible sub-applicants through HSEM.  Project grants are available for acquisition, structure demolition, or structure relocation of insured structures, with the property deed restricted for open space uses in perpetuity.

There are currently few RFC properties in SW Minnesota.

Severe Repetitive Loss (SRL)

SRL Pilot Program is intended to reduce/ eliminate risk to severe repetitive loss properties.  There are currently no such properties in SW Minnesota.

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Other Federal Disaster-related Funding Programs

FEMA is probably more well-known for providing response and recovery assistance.  Other programs such as FEMA’s Public Assistance (PA) Grant Program provide assistance to State, Tribal and local governments, and certain Private-Nonprofit organizations, so that communities can quickly respond to and recover from major disasters or emergencies.  Through the PA Program, FEMA provides supplemental Federal disaster grant assistance for debris removal, emergency protective measures, and the repair, replacement, or restoration of disaster-damaged, publicly owned facilities and the facilities of certain Private Non-Profit (PNP) organizations. The PA Program also encourages protection of these damaged facilities from future events by providing assistance for hazard mitigation measures during the recovery process.

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Resources: Congressional Research Service, FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program: Overview and Issues, July 2009

Congressional Research Service, FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program: Overview Issues, March 2009

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