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Planning Resources

Plan Integration: Protecting Life, Property, and Place

In accordance with the federal Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000, FEMA requires that communities have a hazard mitigation

plan (HMP) in order to be eligible for federal assistance following a disaster event, and that these plans are updated every five years. In Pennsylvania, HMPs are typically done on a multi-jurisdictional or countywide scale, coordinated by the county emergency management agency (EMA). Prior to its adoption by each of the county's local jurisdictions, the plan must be reviewed and approved by PEMA and FEMA.

PEMA requires that communities update their HMPs in accordance with requirements outlined in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's All-Hazard Mitigation Planning Standard Operating Guide. This document, used in conjunction with PEMA's online Plan Builder, includes a series of checklists for required plan elements and items (including FEMA requirements), clarifies and combines existing federal guidance (particularly the FEMA 386 series), and provides communities with a greater opportunity to excel in the preparation of their HMPs.

Hazard mitigation planning in Pennsylvania has traditionally focused on taking actions to reduce or eliminate long-term risk to life and property from natural disasters—and public safety must always take priority. However, by integrating historic preservation considerations into the planning process and prioritizing important historic buildings for mitigation, local and state officials and hazard mitigation planners may help to ensure that Pennsylvania communities' historic built environments—and unique sense of place—are also protected from nature's wrath and preserved for future generations.

A primary goal of the PA SHPO's Disaster Planning for Historic Properties Initiative is to provide guidance for all 67 Pennsylvania counties to successfully integrate historic resource inventories, vulnerability assessments, and sensitive mitigation strategies into their HMPs using the four county pilot projects as models. Additionally, PEMA will be updating the All-Hazard Mitigation Planning Standard Operating Guide in 2018 and will be including new historic preservation requirements to ensure that moving forward, communities are including these items and considerations in their plans.

The integration of historic preservation considerations into the hazard mitigation plans of Pennsylvania communities aligns with FEMA's National Mitigation Framework (2013), which explains that "comprehensive mitigation strategies consider the systems that make up communities and the Nation. Mitigation activities are implemented through the core capabilities with consideration given to the economy, housing, health and social services, infrastructure, and natural and cultural resources." Further, the Framework notes that effective strategies "recognize the interdependent nature of the economy, health and social services, housing infrastructure, and natural and cultural resources within a community." Cultural resources include historic resources.

Pennsylvania's Disaster Planning for Historic Properties Initiative also helps to implement Section 1111 of the federal Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013, which called for a national strategy to reduce costs on future disasters, namely "address vulnerability to damage from flooding, severe weather, and other hazards" and "analyze gaps…of...mitigation at all levels of government."

As part of the Disaster Planning for Historic Properties Initiative, PA SHPO is working with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) to better integrate historic resource considerations into the State All-Hazard Mitigation Plan, for continuity between state and local plans, and to ensure better cohesion between the State All-Hazard Mitigation Plan and Statewide Historic Preservation Plan. PA SHPO contracted Vision Planning & Consulting to produce recommendations for PEMA's Standard Operating Guide, a document referenced by counties when they update their County Hazard Mitigation Plans.

Through 2018, the PA SHPO worked with Vision on pilot projects in Bedford, Cameron, Monroe, and Philadelphia counties to, for the first time, develop a model framework for the integration of historic property information into the commonwealth's county-level FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plans (HMPs). Those plans help to identify and prioritize projects that will lessen the impact of future natural and manmade hazards and direct how federal and state funds are spent following disaster declarations.



 In addition to facilitating the integration of historic preservation considerations into the multijurisdictional local hazard mitigation plans in Bedford, Cameron, Monroe, and Philadelphia counties through 2018, PA SHPO included disaster mitigation and recovery considerations into the 2018-2023 Pennsylvania Statewide Historic Preservation Plan. As part of the planning process to update the Statewide Historic Preservation Plan, an overwhelming 88% of the nearly 3,000 respondents to the PA SHPO's public input survey answered "yes" to the question "Do you think communities should plan for ways to protect older and historic places from damage or loss from natural disasters and ensure their future preservation?"



Pennsylvania Cultural Resilience Network

Preserving our history is about more than just buildings; what those buildings contain can be just as important. PaCRN offers resources to help safeguard cherished items and collections, as well as volunteer opportunities throughout the Commonwealth.



Peer States

Pennsylvania has been lucky to avoid major disaster declarations since Superstorm Sandy, but other states and territories have not fared quite so well. In 2017 Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria battered the Gulf Coast, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Earlier this year major flooding in Ellicott City, Maryland occurred just two years after another devastating flood impacted the historic downtown.

In addition to offering any help that we can, Pennsylvanians can learn from how our peers are responding to disasters. While the specifics of disaster response and types of historic resources might be somewhat different in Pennsylvania than they are in Texas or Puerto Rico, these resources can still provide valuable insights for properties here in the Commonwealth.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation maintains a landing page on their website for disaster relief resources that is updated following major disaster events.

The Maryland Historical Trust (our peer agency in the Old Line State) manages the Cultural Resources Hazard Mitigation Planning Program.

Other State Historic Preservation Offices with disaster planning programs include: