Disaster recovery experts discuss how to address climate risks in hazard planning


In Indiana, climate change is projected to increase the number of extreme weather events, primarily in the form of extreme heat and precipitation. As these extreme weather events become more common, it will be increasingly important for local governments to develop plans that minimize the potential for property damage and loss of life.

To help local governments address a changing climate in their hazard planning, two experts discussed resources and examples during ERI’s March 10 webinar.

Communities’ primary form of natural disaster planning is through the creation of a multi-hazard mitigation plan. These plans require state, tribal, and local governments to identify disaster risks and vulnerabilities for their communities and develop long-term strategies to protect against those events. While these plans are helpful for planning purposes, they are also required to receive funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency following a disaster declaration. During ERI’s webinar, experts discussed why accounting for climate change in mitigation planning is an important part of this process.

Mary Moran, the Disaster Recovery Branch Director for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, told participants that climate resilience and mitigation planning is crucial for protecting communities—saving lives and money over time.

From 1998 to 2018, every county in Indiana experienced at least four combined disaster and emergency declarations, Moran said. Given climate trends, more populations and infrastructure will be at risk in the future.

Moran noted that mitigation and planning activities to prepare for these disasters are cost beneficial, as every dollar spent on mitigation actions is a six-dollar benefit saved in future disaster costs.

When discussing how communities can address climate risks in their multi-hazard mitigation plans, Andrew Rumbach, an assistant professor at Texas A&M University, gave four tips:

  1. Broaden the mitigation conversation to include government staff and stakeholders outside of just emergency management to get additional perspective and to work across interconnected areas of focus.
  2. Make climate change foundational by including how climate will affect every aspect of risk analysis.
  3. Build coalitions and networks that include more groups outside of government in the planning process to create more effective plans.
  4. Take the long view by acknowledging that hazard mitigation strategies will take long-term efforts and begin implementing those strategies in the short-term.

For communities in Indiana working on their hazard mitigation plans, the Hoosier Resilience Index offers evaluation resources for local governments to assess their vulnerabilities and preparedness. Additionally, communities can use the Planning for Hazards guide to prepare for and mitigate hazards by integrating resilience and hazard mitigation principles into plans, codes, and standards. While the guide was developed for Colorado, the strategies are broadly applicable.