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The City of New Orleans


Hazard Mitigation Planning Overview

New Orleans’ Hazard Mitigation Program is a key component of the City’s approach to emergency management and disaster resilience.  In the early 1980s, the newly created Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was charged with developing a structure for how the federal, state, and local governments would respond to disasters.  FEMA developed the four phases of emergency management, an approach that can be applied to all disasters.  The four phases are as follows:

  • Hazard Mitigation—described by FEMA and the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (DMA 2000) as “any sustained action taken to reduce or eliminate long-term risk to life and property from a hazard event.” The goal of mitigation is to save lives and reduce property damage. Besides significantly aiding in the obviously desirous goal of saving human lives, mitigation can reduce the enormous cost of disasters to property owners and all levels of government.  In addition, mitigation can protect critical community facilities and minimize community disruption, helping communities return to usual daily living in the aftermath of a disaster.  Examples of mitigation involve a range of activities and actions, including the following - land-use planning, adoption and enforcement of building codes, and construction projects (e.g., floodproofing homes through elevation or acquisition and relocation away from floodplains).
  • Emergency Preparedness—includes plans and preparations made before a disaster event to save lives and property and to facilitate response operations.
  • Disaster Response—includes actions taken to provide emergency assistance, save lives, minimize property damage, and speed recovery immediately following a disaster.
  • Disaster Recovery—includes actions taken to return to a normal or improved operating condition following a disaster.

Figure 9 illustrates the basic relationship between these phases of emergency management.  While hazard mitigation may occur both before and after a disaster event, it is significantly more effective when implemented before an event occurs.  This is one of the key elements of this plan and its overall strategy: reduce risk before disaster strikes in order to minimize the need for post-disaster response and recovery.  The figure demonstrates how mitigation relies on updating plans in the wake of a disaster. Post-disaster plan revision is a vital component of improving mitigation. Each hazardous event affords an opportunity to reduce the consequences of future occurrences.

Figure 9: The Four Phases of Emergency Management and their Relation to Future Hazard Mitigation

Source: National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program

The catastrophic events of 2005 had profound impacts on emergency management and hazard mitigation throughout Louisiana.  The storms also raised awareness of the importance of hazard mitigation among decision-makers and the general population, which has been particularly important since natural hazards will likely be increasing in frequency, magnitude, and impact in the coming years due to climate change.

General Strategy

During the last update to the Louisiana State Hazard Mitigation Plan, the State Hazard Mitigation Team (SHMT) began a long-term effort to better integrate critical components of all plans with hazard mitigation implications in Louisiana to ensure that the programs, policies, recommendations, and implementation strategies are internally consistent.  As each of these documents has been adopted by various state agencies, the SHMT has worked to incorporate this information into the decision process.

Part of the ongoing integration process is that GOHSEP encourages the parishes and the local municipalities with independent hazard mitigation plans to utilize the same plan format and methodologies as the State Hazard Mitigation Plan in order to create continuity of information from local to state mitigation plans and programs. The planning team developed this plan consistent with the Louisiana SHMP.

This 2020 plan update also coheres with the Plain Writing Act of 2010, which requires federal agencies to use clear communication that is accessible, consistent, understandable, and useful to the public.  While the State of Louisiana and its political subdivisions are not required to meet such standards, the Act aligns with best practices in hazard mitigation.  Since successful hazard mitigation relies on full implementation and cooperation at all levels of government and community, a successful hazard mitigation plan must also be easily used at all of these levels.  The Orleans Parish Hazard Mitigation Steering Committee continues to place significant value on the detailed analysis and mitigation planning executed in previous plan updates.  This plan update remains coherent with those documents, retaining language and content where appropriate, deleting or replacing it where appropriate, and augmenting it when constructive.

2020 Plan Update

The 2020 Orleans Parish Hazard Mitigation Plan maintains much of the information from the 2015 plan, which was organized as follows:

  • Section 1: Executive Summary
  • Section 2: Introduction
  • Section 3: Plan Adoption
  • Section 4: Community Profile
  • Section 5: Planning Process
  • Section 6:  Hazard Identification, Profiling, Ranking
  • Section 7: Vulnerability Assessment, Loss Estimation
  • Section 8: Capability Assessment
  • Section 9: Mitigation Strategy
  • Section 10: Plan Maintenance

This 2020 plan update proceeds with the goals of the previous Orleans Parish Hazard Mitigation Plan.  The current goals are as follows:

  • Reduce risk and vulnerability to the human environment, including cultural resources, homeowners, renters, visitors, and transient populations.
  • Reduce risk and vulnerability to the built environment, including current and future structures; critical facilities; historic structures; and infrastructure, including communications infrastructure.
  • Reduce risk and vulnerability to the natural environment, including wetland restoration and recognition of New Orleans as a coastal city.
  • Maximize the involvement of individuals, businesses, and groups in risk reduction measures through education/outreach on hazard mitigation appropriate to all groups, particularly vulnerable populations.
  • To promote, implement, and sustain mitigation measures in Orleans Parish in order to reduce and manage risks to human life, the environment, and property.
  • To protect Orleans Parish and the surrounding region from the effects of natural and manmade hazards, ensuring community continuity in the event of such hazards.

This plan update makes a number of textual changes throughout, but the most obvious changes are data-related and structural edits.  First, the community profile and risk assessment sections use new or updated scientific data from State and Federal agencies. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information’s (NCEI) Storm Events Database was used in the hazard profile and risk assessment, which provides historical hazard data from 1950 to 2019, as well as storm event data from other sources, including the NOAA Storm Prediction Center, National Hurricane Center, and U.S. Fire Administration.  The risk assessment also includes updated information on climate-related hazards from the National Climate Assessment and the Louisiana Coastal Master Plan. Furthermore, all of the sections were updated to reflect the most current information and the most current vision of the plan update.  Second, instead of ten separate sections for numerous tables, maps, and appendices, the present plan update contains four sections and five appendices.  The most significant changes are the newly developed hazard profiles and risk assessments, the addition of newly proposed mitigation actions, and the removal of repetition between sections from previous plan updates.  The 2020 plan update is organized generally as follows:

  • Section One: Introduction
  • Section Two: Hazard Identification and Parish-Wide Risk Assessment
  • Section Three: Capability Assessment
  • Section Four: Mitigation Strategy
  • Appendix A: Planning Process
  • Appendix B: Plan Maintenance
  • Appendix C: Critical Facilities
  • Appendix D: State Required Worksheets
Table 9: 2015 – 2020 Hazard Mitigation Plan Crosswalk
2015 Plan Revised Plan (2020)
Section 1: Executive Summary Section 1: Introduction
Section 2: Introduction Section 1:  Introduction
Section 3: Plan Adoption Appendix A:  Planning Process/Appendix D: Plan Adoption
Section 4: Community Profile Section 1: Introduction; Section 2:  Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment
Section 5: Planning Process Appendix A: Planning Process
Section 6:  Hazard Identification, Profiling, Ranking Section 2: Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment
Section 7: Vulnerability Assessment, Loss Estimation Section 2: Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment
Section 8: Capability Assessment Section 3: Capability Assessment, Appendix E: State Required Worksheets
Section 9: Mitigation Strategy Section 4: Mitigation Strategy
Section 10: Plan Maintenance Appendix B:  Plan Maintenance

Despite these changes, the plan remains consistent in its emphasis on hazards that pose the most significant risk to loss of life, injury, and property in Orleans Parish. Most significantly, Orleans Parish remains at high risk of flooding from various sources, including urban flooding, coastal hazards, and tropical cyclone activity.  All of the parish is also at high risk of damages from high winds and wind-borne debris.  Other hazards threaten the parish, although not to such great degrees and not in such widespread ways.  In all cases, the relative social vulnerability of areas threatened and affected plays a significant role in how governmental agencies and their partners (local, parish, state, and federal) must prepare for and respond to disasters.

The City of New Orleans works in cooperation with other agencies and organizations that operate within the city to plan and implement mitigation efforts.  The most important step forward to improve hazard management capability is to improve coordination and information sharing between the various levels of government and the whole community regarding hazards.

In an effort to make this Hazard Mitigation Plan more accessible and to improve coordination and information sharing with related efforts, the City of New Orleans has elected to transition from a paper-based plan to a web-based plan.  In doing so, New Orleans will be just the second jurisdiction, behind only New York City, and the first in FEMA Region 6 to make this transition.  Having a web-based plan will ultimately improve the experience of the residents of New Orleans who desire to understand the natural and manmade hazards that may impact their neighborhoods.  The web-based plan will allow users to more easily navigate to parts of the plan that interest them, it will provide access to mapping and data visualization tools to help in understanding the potential impacts of hazards, and it will serve as a cross-referencing tool that will provide linkage and transparency to other city plans that impact our citizens. Ultimately, the web-based plan will serve as a vehicle for our citizens to help them make informed decisions, gain a greater understanding of the hazards and impacts they may encounter, and better understand the plans the City has developed to mitigate the future impacts of natural and manmade disasters. 

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