Hazard Mitigation Plan

Background

Merced County in collaboration with the cities of Merced, Atwater, Dos Palos, Gustine, Livingston, and Los Banos is updating their 2014 Multi-Jurisdictional Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (MJHMP).

This planning process involves the development of community mitigation strategies designed to reduce risks and vulnerabilities posed by natural, man-made, and human-health hazards.

The plan must be updated and approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) every five years to keep it current and to maintain eligibility for federal and state mitigation grant assistance. The plan is currently being updated under the guidance of a multi-jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Planning Team (HMPT).

What Is Hazard Mitigation?

The term “hazard mitigation” describes actions that can help reduce or eliminate long-term risks caused by hazards, such as floods, wildfires, and earthquakes. Hazard mitigation is best accomplished when based on a comprehensive, long-term plan that is developed before a disaster strikes.

As the costs of disaster and hazard impacts continue to rise, governments and citizens must find ways to reduce hazard risks to our communities. Oftentimes after disasters, repairs and reconstruction are completed in such a way as to simply restore damaged property to pre-disaster conditions. These efforts may “get things back to normal,” but the replication of pre-disaster conditions results in a repetitive cycle of damage, reconstruction, and repeated damage.

Hazard mitigation breaks this cycle by producing less vulnerable conditions through pre-and post-disaster actions, projects, and resilient reconstruction. The implementation of hazard mitigation actions by local governments means building stronger, safer, and smarter communities that will be able to withstand future impacts and damages.

Project Benefits

Mitigation is an investment in a community’s future safety, sustainability, and resiliency. Recent cost-benefit studies have proven mitigation to be cost-effective for communities, with mitigation projects returning $6 for every $1 spent. Mitigation planning helps communities take action now, before a disaster, and to reduce impacts when a disaster occurs.

Hazard mitigation planning allows residents, business owners, elected officials, and municipalities to think through how to plan, design, build and establish partnerships for risk reduction. Hazard mitigation can also benefit a community by:

  • Protecting public safety and preventing loss of life and injury.
  • Reducing harm to existing and future development.
  • Maintaining community continuity and strengthening the social connections that are essential for recovery.
  • Preventing damage to the community’s unique economic, cultural, and environmental assets.
  • Minimizing operational downtime and accelerating recovery after disasters.
  • Reducing the costs of disaster response and recovery and the exposure to risk.
  • Implementing capital improvements, infrastructure protection, open space preservation, and supporting economic resiliency.

Additionally, the County and the six municipalities will benefit from this planning project by:

  • Ensuring continued eligibility for FEMA hazard mitigation funds. Increasing public awareness on community vulnerabilities and supporting actions that reduce losses from future disasters.
  • Ensuring policies, programs, and goals are compatible with reducing vulnerability to all hazards.
  • Building partnerships with diverse stakeholders and increasing opportunities to leverage data and resources.
  • Expanding the understanding of potential risk reduction measures to include local plans and regulations; structure and infrastructure projects; natural systems protection; education and awareness programs; and other tools.
  • Informing the development, prioritization, and implementation of mitigation projects.

The Plan Update Process

Merced County is following a 4-phase and 9-step planning process to update their existing 2014 MJHMP during 2021, following FEMA guidance with consultant assistance.

Planning Phases

  1. Organize Resources
    1. Determine the Planning Area and Resources
    2. Build the Planning Team
    3. Create an Outreach Strategy
    4. Review Community Capabilities
  2. Assess Risks
  3. Develop a Mitigation Strategy
  4. Plan, Adoption, Monitoring & Evaluation
    1. Review and Adopt the Plan
    2. Keep the Plan Current
    3. Create a Safe and Resilient Community

How to Get Involved

Residents, organizations, interested stakeholders and businesses are encouraged to contribute to the planning process. The HMPT regards broad public participation in the planning process as an essential strategy for developing an updated MJHMP that will be effective, supported by County residents, and ultimately implemented. One way to get involved is to take a short public survey designed to gather input on hazards and their mitigation.