Georgia's unique geographical location exposes the state and its citizens to severe weather at any time of the year. Georgia is one the few places where regional weather conditions may include snow and ice accumulations accompanied by lighting and tornadoes from the same storm event. Georgia has averaged a federal disaster declaration about once every year for the last fifteen years. How can we protect and prepare ourselves for the next natural disaster in Georgia? One answer is Hazard Mitigation Planning.
A Hazard Mitigation Plan forms the foundation for a community's long-term strategy to reduce disaster losses and break the cycle of disaster damage, reconstruction and repeated damage. The planning process is as important as the plan itself. It creates a framework for risk-based decision making to reduce damages to lives, property, and the economy from future disasters. State and local governments are required to develop and maintain a hazard mitigation plan as a condition of receiving certain types of hazard mitigation disaster assistance, emergency and non-emergency. The requirements and procedures for state and local mitigation plans are found in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at Title 44, Chapter 1, Part 201 (44 CFR Part 201).
State Mitigation Planning
In March 2005, Georgia reached a significant milestone with the completion of the first State Hazard Mitigation Plan to meet the federal requirements of 44 CFR Part 201. Subsequently, updates to the State of Georgia Mitigation Plan including Enhanced Plan elements were approved in 2008, 2011, 2014, and 2019, with the next update expected in 2024. Georgia is one of approximately a dozen states to receive Enhanced Plan status. This allows the state to receive additional Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds in the aftermath of a disaster.
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Local Hazard Mitigation Planning
With the passage of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 and implementing regulations in February 2002, the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency provided technical assistance to local governments in the development and update of their mitigation plans. GEMA/HS helped local governments secure grant funding to develop a multi-jurisdictional hazard mitigation plan in each county. By June 2010, all 159 Georgia counties received federal approval of their local mitigation plans. These plans are updated and approved by FEMA every five years to maintain eligibility for HMA grants.