Headwinds in the Heartland? Hazard Planning Lessons from Six Inland Jurisdictions in the Southern Plains

Investigator(s): Ward Lyles, Penn Pennel, Rachel Riley
Research Dates: 2018 - 2022
Affiliate Organization(s): University of Kansas • University of Oklahoma

In spite of many plan evaluation studies, researchers know little about the status of local hazard mitigation planning (HMP) in oft-overlooked inland communicates and they know little about high quality mitigation planning in the middle of the country. A six county comparative analysis was conducted using locations in the Southern Plains to help fill those gaps. Counties with one principal city that were large enough to have a robust planning infrastructure (population 50,000 to 500,000) but not so large as to be idiosyncratic in the context of the region or nation. Twelve plans were evaluated and interviews were conducted with 11 key informants to answer the following research questions. 1. What are the characteristics of local HMP efforts in an inland region characterized by weak state contexts for planning and consistency conservative state and local politics? 2. How do the characteristics of local HMP in an inland region compare with local HMP in coastal regions characterized by more variable state and local planning contexts and political environments? 3. Do communities renowned for sustained and innovative mitigation planning in an inland region provide lessons for scholarship or practice distinct from communities recognized as mitigation leaders in other region?. Three core findings emerged: the hazard mitigation plans tend to be of low- to mediocre quality; the networks of hazard mitigation stakeholders vary widely in composition and leadership; and the types of consultants and their roles also varies across the six cases, bringing expertise characteristic of narrow emergency management perspectives to more integrated expertise in long-range land use and infrastructure planning perspectives. Without the requirements of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 it is difficult to imagine that thousands of communities would have dedicated millions of dollars and untold hours to develop mitigation plans. Yet, as the findings show, the DMA is likely in need of a major overhaul, in spite of recent efforts like the new FEMA Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program.

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