Hazard Mitigation Planning

What is the Hazard Mitigation Planning Process

Conducted every five years, Hazard mitigation plans are prepared and adopted by communities with the primary purpose of identifying, assessing, and reducing the long-term risk to life and property from hazard events. Effective mitigation planning can reduce disaster damage, reduce recovery times, and improve community economic resilience following disasters. 

Hazard mitigation plans can address a range of natural and human-caused hazards. They typically include four key elements: 

  1. a risk assessment, 
  2. capability assessment, 
  3. mitigation strategy, and 
  4. plan maintenance procedures. 

How it Works

Lancaster conducts multi-jurisdictional planning that spans all communities across our county and is included in the multi-county South Central Task Force Threat and Hazard Identification & Resource Assessment (THIRA) planning region. While most hazard mitigation plans are prepared as stand-alone documents, the results of the Lancaster County HMP is included in the South-Central Task Force comprehensive THIRA. 

Adoption and Implementation

Many local municipalities have already prepared and adopted their own local hazard mitigation plans, and often have done so as part of multi-jurisdictional planning efforts. Regardless, the responsibility for plan implementation lies with each jurisdiction. All Lancaster County municipalities are invited and encouraged to participate in and adopt the County plan. Community-specific risk assessments, actions, and procedures in support of the overall goals for the local municipalities will be included as part of the overall Lancaster County mitigation strategy and plan maintenance elements of the county-level plan. While the risk and capability assessment studies help form the foundation for the plan, mitigation policies, projects, or other activities, and the community’s roadmap for plan implementation are found in these latter elements to recognize community-specific needs. The actions included in a community’s mitigation strategy should address the vulnerabilities identified in the risk assessment and include a comprehensive range of mitigation measures including structural projects and non-structural activities such as development codes and regulations, public education and outreach initiatives, and natural resource protection strategies. 

The Process

There are four core steps in completing a hazard mitigation plan or plan update.


1. Organize the Planning Process and Resources

At the start, Lancaster County will focus on assembling the resources needed for a successful mitigation planning process. This includes securing technical expertise from the community, defining the planning areas, and identifying key individuals, agencies, local municipalities, businesses, and/or other stakeholders to participate in the process. The planning process will include opportunities for the public to comment on the plan in open forums.

2. Assess Risks

Next, the aforementioned participants will identify the characteristics and potential consequences of hazards within their respective communities. It is important to understand what geographic areas each hazard might impact and what people, property, or other assets might be vulnerable, therefore emphasizing the importance of local participation in the process.

The four basic components of a risk assessment are:

  1. Hazard identification;
  2. Profiling of hazard events;
  3. Inventory of assets; and
  4. Estimation of potential human and economic losses based on the exposure and vulnerability of people, buildings, and infrastructure.

3. Develop Mitigation Strategies

The local municipalities then set priorities and develop long-term strategies for avoiding or minimizing the undesired effects of disasters. The strategies are based on the assessment of the unique set of regulatory, administrative, and financial capabilities available to undertake mitigation initiatives. The mitigation strategy also includes a description of how the mitigation actions will be implemented and administered.

4. Adopt and Implement the Plan

Once PEMA has received the adoption from the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners, and approved the plan, the adopting local municipalities and stakeholder organizations can bring the mitigation plan to life in a variety of ways, ranging from implementing specific mitigation actions to changing aspects of day-to-day organizational operations. The findings of the assessment, accompanied by the initiatives identified in the plan are used to help prioritize grant funding targets for the County. To ensure success, the plan must remain a relevant, living document through routine maintenance. Lancaster County Emergency Management will conduct periodic evaluations to assess changing risks and priorities and make revisions as needed.