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Smart Growth

Regional Resilience Toolkit

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Regional Resilience Toolkit: 5 Steps to Build Large-Scale Resilience to Natural Disasters

From 2013 to 2018, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) helped three California regions take large-scale action for disaster resilience. Based on these technical assistance projects, FEMA and EPA partnered with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission/Association of Bay Area Governments (MTC/ABAG) to create a toolkit that helps regions plan for disasters by working across multiple jurisdictions and with non-governmental partners.

Cover of Regional Resilience Toolkit

The Regional Resilience Toolkit (PDF) (228 pp, 33 MB, About PDF) focuses on the regional scale because disasters happen at a regional scale, and a coordinated process across multiple jurisdictions can result in safer communities. The toolkit is set up to allow multiple jurisdictions and levels of government to work together for regional-scale actions. It is also designed for non-governmental partners and community groups to engage in a more inclusive and holistic process so that resilience actions are guided by core community values.

Multi-hazard resilience may address risks from wildfires, drought, hurricanes, extreme heat, flooding, earthquakes, landslides, sea level rise, winter storms, and more. This toolkit can help partners across a region address multiple hazards simultaneously within the context of federal, state, and local planning requirements and funding streams. Resilience can include actions that address both immediate, pressing needs as well as decisions that protect long-term investments.

The toolkit has been used in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Central Coast region, and the Mt. Shasta area of northern California. Based on proven approaches pilot-tested in California, as well as examples and lessons learned from many other parts of the country, the Regional Resilience Toolkit could be used in any region or community — no matter the size, location, capacity, or hazard. Designed to fulfill requirements for FEMA’s Local Hazard Mitigation Plan approval and updates, the toolkit also supports the National Mitigation Investment Strategy.

Illustration of the 5 steps in the Regional Resilience ToolkitThe toolkit includes five steps, shown in the image to the right, and users can jump in at any point in the process, depending on where they currently are in resilience planning. The toolkit includes two appendices organized by the five steps. Appendix A provides more detail on nearly every section of this document, as well as a list of specific outcomes and external resources for each step. Appendix B provides worksheets for use by the project team and an advisory group to help spur conversation and assist in planning.

Find more resources on strengthening disaster resilience: Smart Growth Strategies for Disaster Resilience and Recovery.

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Building Blocks for Regional Resilience 2020

EPA’s Office of Community Revitalization is using the Regional Resilience Toolkit through the Building Blocks Program in four projects to help multiple jurisdictions come together to identify shared natural disaster risks and a common action plan for the region. Through on-site workshops, EPA will support communities and their partners as they set resilience goals, prioritize assets to protect, and develop resilience strategies and funding plans. All four project areas contain federally designated Opportunity Zones and will address economic resilience as part of their planning process. The projects are:

Land of Sky Regional Council, North Carolina

The Land of Sky Regional Council (LOSRC), covering a five-county region in western North Carolina, plans to use this assistance to build on recent regional vulnerability assessments by conducting broader community outreach and then determining clear steps toward regionwide action to reduce risks from flooding, wildfire, and landslides. LOSRC will include these actions as updates to the long-range transportation plan by end of summer 2020 and to the regional land use plan by the end of the year. In addition to the regional-scale work, LOSRC will support local and county-level resilience actions. LOSRC will do additional analysis to characterize the specific risks from flooding, wildfire, and landslides to underrepresented communities, including urban and rural low-income and minority (as well as aging) residents, who can be more vulnerable to disasters for a variety of reasons.

Southern Minnesota

Minnesota Homeland Security & Emergency Management (HSEM) and Interagency Climate Adaptation Team (ICAT) will use this technical assistance to help communities think comprehensively about resilience actions that have cobenefits, so they can reduce flood risk as well as address other chronic stressors that disproportionately affect rural, agricultural areas. The project will focus on the southern region of the state because of its history of flooding, which affects physical infrastructure such as roads and rural electric utilities and causes farms to lose crops and livestock, and because projections suggest more frequent and intense rainfall will continue to disproportionately impact this agricultural region. The technical assistance should help local officials and policy-makers better understand why the farming community is particularly vulnerable to floods, success stories from other farming communities, specific natural hazard mitigation actions and climate adaptation strategies, and key funding sources and partners to implement priority actions. HSEM and ICAT hope to use this assistance to figure out a replicable model of resilience technical assistance that can be applied in other rural parts of the state.

Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, Wisconsin

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District will use this project to narrow its focus on specific recommendations from its 2019 Resilience PlanExit which was developed in partnership with 55 regional stakeholders, including elected officials, private-sector representatives, and nonprofits. MMSD will use this project to select up to three priority actions from the plan’s 20 recommended actions that address critical infrastructure and develop a pilot project with a detailed implementation and funding plan. MMSD intends to use lessons from this project and scale up the effort in partnership with other municipalities in the region. This project is funded in partnership with EPA’s Office of Water.

Portland Metropolitan Region, Oregon

EPA will work with Oregon Metro and the Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization to convene cities and counties in the Portland metropolitan region that have hazard mitigation plans to compare, contrast, and overlay the plans. The goal is to connect shared risks such as a potential Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, “connect the dots” between the various plans, and prioritize and identify funding for cross-jurisdictional projects. This project will elevate the conversation about mitigation needs and priorities in the region by facilitating communication across jurisdictional boundaries to help raise visibility and effectively advocate for resources. This work will help inform not only Metro’s future mitigation efforts, but also the region’s land use planning, transportation, solid waste, parks, and other work to make the region more vibrant, livable, and sustainable. This project will also strengthen the region’s resilience by applying an equity lens and social vulnerability tools to hazard mitigation and recovery planning.

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