In emergency management, hazards are natural, human-caused, or technological disasters. Hazard mitigation means reducing, eliminating, redirecting, or avoiding the effects of those hazards.
The standard definition of hazard mitigation that is often used by FEMA and PEMA is any
cost-effective action taken to eliminate or reduce the long-term risk to life and property from natural and technological hazards.
The phrase “cost-effective” is added to this definition to stress the important practical idea that, to be beneficial, a mitigation measure should save money in the long run. If the cost of a mitigation project is less than the long-term costs of disaster recovery and repair for the project area, the mitigation is considered cost-effective.
Nationwide, in 2018, FEMA estimates that for every $1 spent on mitigation, $6 is saved! (It is actually a $7: $1 return in riverine areas.)
Mitigation Projects in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, the most common hazard is flooding.
The most common mitigation project is acquisition and demolition of flood-risk homes or “buyouts.” Since 1996, about 2,800 homes and an estimated 3,500 people have been removed from dangerous flood areas through mitigation projects. Acquisition is considered the “best” mitigation because it eliminates the hazard of flooding in a risk area -- no homes, no losses.
Other mitigation projects in Pennsylvania include home elevations and small flood control projects, though these are fewer in number than acquisition projects. These types of mitigation activities are not as effective because homes and businesses remain in risk areas and can still be damaged in a disaster.
Pennsylvania Silver Jackets is an interagency team dedicated to working collaboratively with the commonwealth and stakeholders in developing and implementing solutions to flood hazards. They combine agency resources, which include funding, programs, and technical expertise.
The Pennsylvania Silver Jackets created the
Pennsylvania Interagency Flood Mitigation Guide (PDF).
Additional Federal Resources
Additional FEMA guidance for hazard mitigation can be found at
FEMA's Mitigation Program web page and at the
FEMA Library, a searchable database of all FEMA guidance and documents.
Learn more from
FEMA's Mitigate Your Home Toolkit (DOC).
For more information on local hazard mitigation plans, contact your county emergency management coordinator or planning office.