American Planning Association Hazard Mitigation Policy Guide

The American Planning Association (APA) “Hazard Mitigation Policy Guide” was published in 2020 and provides guidance to federal, state, and local hazard mitigation planners regarding best practices on community preparedness, health, resilience, and sustainability. It covers a wide array of climate- and non-climate-related natural and human-caused hazards. As a whole, the guide recommends that response and recovery improve resilience to future risks such as climate change.

The APA guide distinguishes between mitigation and adaptation in the context of hazards. Mitigation refers to the actions taken to reduce the impacts of natural or human-caused hazards, while adaptation involves changes to the natural or built environment that are made because of changing conditions. Adaptation includes change in location, building standards and codes.

The guide organizes policy recommendations first by categories that are broadly applicable regardless of the disaster or hazard context. These include:

  • Interagency, Regional, and Local Planning Capacity and Cooperation - e.g., establishing “protocols and agency leads among federal, state, and local agencies and nongovernmental organizations to enable better coordination in responses when emergencies arise;”
  • Interrelationships Between Plans, Development Codes, and Ordinances - e.g., requiring that land use and environmental planners be involved in the development of hazard mitigation and response/recovery plans;
  • Resiliency Standards - e.g., “develop[ing], adopt[ing], and enforc[ing] building codes that provide greater resiliency toward hazards” and encouraging the use of nature-based solutions;
  • Incentives - e.g., as part of disaster assistance, funding 100% of the cost of meeting enhanced resilience standards; 
  • and more.

The guidance then gives specific policy recommendations on reducing the impacts of natural and human caused hazards. The climate-related natural hazards include:

  • Drought
  • Extreme Heat and Cold
  • Flooding
  • Hurricanes and Tropical Storms
  • Sea Level Rise
  • Tornadoes, Thunderstorms, High Wind, and Severe Dust Storms
  • Wildfire
  • Winter Storms and Ice

The human-caused hazards that can be affected by climate change include events affecting airports, dams and levees, and drinking water.

The APA guide emphasizes that equity and environmental justice should be a key consideration in all hazard mitigation actions, which should address the needs of those who are particularly susceptible to hazards, including historically underserved and marginalized communities, as well as those on the “wrong end of the digital divide.” Many of the specific recommendations on mitigating hazards concern equity and environmental justice issues.

The guide was written by APA’s Legislative and Policy Committee and had input from planners across the U.S. The guide was reviewed and approved in 2020 by APA’s Delegate Assembly and Board of Directors.

Publication Date: July 2020

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  • Planning guides
  • Policy analysis/recommendations


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