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EPA and FEMA Partner to Help Communities Prepare for and Recover from Natural Disasters

Communities across the country are using smart growth approaches to ensure that growth and development meets a variety of community goals—stronger economies, safer and more convenient neighborhoods, vibrant downtowns, and clean water and air. These approaches include revising land use policies and codes so they are more responsive to market demands, ensuring that public and private investments are made in ways that support job creation and increased economic activity, and getting significant and meaningful involvement from all stakeholders when making decisions about development.

How and where growth occurs, both in the short term and the long term, can have a major impact on how well communities can prepare for and recover from natural disasters. But communities have not always used development planning as a strategy to become more resilient to hazards. Integrating smart growth approaches into preparedness and recovery can change this dynamic. Smart growth strategies like creating flexible land use policies, targeting public investment to catalyze private investment, and engaging the entire community in making decisions about the future can help communities recover from a disaster in a more resilient way, rebuild according to a shared community vision, and be prepared for the next natural disaster.

In 2010, EPA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that make it easier for the two agencies to work together to help communities become safer, healthier, and more resilient. The agencies collaborate to help communities hit by disasters rebuild in ways that protect the environment, create long-term economic prosperity, and enhance neighborhoods. FEMA and EPA also help communities incorporate strategies that will improve quality of life and direct development away from vulnerable areas into their hazard mitigation plans.

EPA and FEMA intend to use the lessons they learn from working together under this MOA, as well as from working with other federal agencies, to better coordinate federal assistance to communities on hazard mitigation planning and post-disaster recovery. The MOA also helps the agencies work together on climate change adaptation.

Read the Memorandum of Agreement between FEMA and EPA (PDF) (23 pp, 4.5 MB, About PDF).


Some of the projects on which FEMA and EPA collaborate include:

EPA Technical Assistance: Joplin, Missouri Complete/Green Streets (PDF) (45 pp, 4.5 MB, About PDF) Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer
After an F-5 tornado hit the East 20th Street corridor in Joplin, Missouri on May 22, 2011, residents and leaders decided to try to redesign the corridor as a model for green/complete streets that could be applied to other locations throughout the community. In 2012, EPA provided technical assistance to the city of Joplin to help create a multi-modal transportation corridor that would meet the need for more walkable, bikeable streets and also manage stormwater in a more environmentally friendly manner. Before the project began, FEMA worked with local stakeholders to identify long-term community recovery needs and then helped EPA match its sustainable community assistance capabilities with those needs.

Land use planning assistance for Spirit Lake Nation
In 2011, FEMA, EPA, and outside experts will work with the Spirit Lake Nation, a tribe in North Dakota that has experienced 17 years of chronic flooding, to develop a future land use plan that directs growth away from known flood risk areas and improves overall quality of life on the reservation.

Post-disaster assistance to Iowa communities
In 2009, FEMA and EPA worked with Iowa state agencies and local partners to help six Iowa communities plan their recovery after floods and tornadoes.

Iowa Adaptation Pilot (PDF) (64 pp, 880K, About PDF)
In 2009, EPA and FEMA worked with state and local leaders in Iowa to figure out how the latest science on the changing weather patterns due to climate change could be integrated into local and state level planning efforts that are used to adapt to and mitigate future disasters.


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