What is Hazard Mitigation?

Superstorm Sandy Damage in Ocean Grove, NJPhoto Source: Robert Romano

Hazard Mitigation

The term "Hazard Mitigation" describes actions that can help reduce or eliminate long-term risks caused by hazards, or disaster, such as floods, hurricanes, wildfires, landslides, tornadoes, earthquakes, dam failures, or terrorism. Hazard mitigation focuses on long-term strategies that help governments and citizens find ways to reduce hazard risks and disaster-related costs to communities. Efforts made to reduce hazard risks should be compatible with other community goals; mitigation is most effective when it is a part of the larger responsibility of the government, individuals, private businesses, institutions, and non-profits. As communities plan for new development and improvements to existing infrastructure, mitigation can and should be an important component of the planning effort.

While mitigation activities can and should be taken before a disaster occurs, after a disaster, hazard mitigation is essential. 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 may result in a repetitive cycle of damage, reconstruction, and repeated damage. Hazard mitigation breaks this repetitive cycle by producing less vulnerable conditions through post-disaster repairs and reconstruction. The implementation of such hazard mitigation actions leads to building stronger, safer and smarter communities that are better able to reduce future injuries and future damage.

Hazard Mitigation Breaks the Cycle

When the same kind of disaster occurs in the same place, like flooding along the coast, it can cause repeated damage and require repeated reconstruction. This constant reconstruction becomes more expensive over time. Hazard mitigation breaks this expensive cycle of recurrent damage and increasing reconstruction costs by taking a long-term view of rebuilding and recovering following disasters - hazard mitigation builds a safer community from the beginning.

Superstorm Sandy Damage in Avon-by-the-Sea, NJPhoto source: Kim Brown
Elevated Home in Highlands, NJ
Dune Grass on Sand Dunes in Sea Girt, NJ

What Are the Benefits of Hazard Mitigation?

  • Reduces the loss of life, property, essential services, critical facilities and economic hardship.
  • Reduces short-term and long-term recovery and reconstruction costs.
  • Increases cooperation and communication within the community through the planning process.
  • Increases potential for state and federal funding for recovery and reconstruction projects.

What Types of Mitigation Techniques Can Be Utilized?

Hazard mitigation actions are commonly broken into six different categories:

  • Prevention – Keep hazard risk from getting worse
  • Property Protection – Modify existing development subject to hazard risk
  • Public Education & Awareness – Inform people about hazardous areas and mitigation actions
  • Natural Resource Protection – Reduce effects of hazards & improve quality of environment
  • Emergency Services – Actions taken to ensure continuity of emergency services
  • Structural Projects – Large manmade structures to control hazards

Common mitigation actions that are taken include the following:

  • Enforcement of building codes, floodplain management codes and environmental regulations
  • Public safety measures such as continual maintenance of roadways, culverts and dams
  • Acquisition of relocation of structures, such as purchasing buildings located in a floodplain
  • Acquisition of hazard prone lands in their undeveloped state to ensure they remain so
  • Retrofitting of structures & design of new construction such as elevating a home or building
  • Protecting critical facilities and infrastructure from future hazard events
  • Mitigation, disaster recovery and COOP planning
  • Development and distribution of outreach materials related to hazard mitigation
  • Deployment of warning systems
County-wide High Water Mark Sign
Maritime Forest in Bradley Beach, NJPhoto Source: Surfrider Foundation