Mitigation is the cornerstone of emergency management.  It’s the continuing effort to lessen the impact disasters have on people and property.  Mitigation is defined as “sustained action that reduces or eliminates long-term risk to people and property from natural hazards and their effects.”

Mitigation efforts are attempts to prevent hazards from developing into disasters altogether or to reduce the effects of disasters.  The mitigation phase differs from the other phases in that it focuses on long-term measures for reducing or eliminating risk.  The implementation of mitigation strategies is a part of the recovery process if applied after a disaster occurs.  Mitigation measures can be structural or non-structural. Structural measures use technological solutions like flood levees. Non-structural measures include legislation, land-use planning (e.g. the designation of nonessential land like parks to be used as flood zones), and insurance.  Mitigation is the most cost-efficient method for reducing the affect of hazards although not always the most suitable.  Mitigation includes providing regulations regarding evacuation, sanctions against those who refuse to obey the regulations (such as mandatory evacuations), and communication of risks to the public.  Some structural mitigation measures may harm the ecosystem.

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, FEMA estimates that for every $1 spent on mitigation, $4 are saved!

A precursor to mitigation is the identification of risks.  Physical risk assessment refers to identifying and evaluating hazards.  The hazard-specific risk (Rh) combines a hazard’s probability and affects.  The equation below states that the hazard multiplied by the populations’ vulnerability to that hazard produces a risk Catastrophe modeling.  The higher the risk the more urgent that the vulnerabilities to the hazard are targeted by mitigation and preparedness.  If, however, there is no vulnerability then there will be no risk, e.g. an earthquake occurring in a desert where nobody lives

Through effective mitigation practices we can ensure that fewer people and communities become victims of natural disasters. Mitigation can take many forms. It can involve such actions as:

  • Promoting sound land use planning based on known hazards
  • Buying flood insurance to protect your belongings
  • Relocating or elevating structures out of the floodplain
  • Securing shelves and hot water heaters to walls
  • Developing, adopting and enforcing building codes and standards
  • Engineering roads and bridges to withstand earthquakes
  • Using fire-retardent materials in new construction
  • Developing and implementing a plan in your business or community to reduce your susceptibility to hazards

Interested in learning more about hazard mitigation?

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania State All-Hazard Mitigation Plan
Each state is required to have a hazard mitigation plan in order to be eligible for certain types of federal mitigation funding. Visit the Hazard Mitigation Forms Page to view the 2010 Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s FEMA/PEMA Approved All-Hazard Mitigation Plan.