Background Information

Disaster Preparedness Project and Plan (DP3)

Baltimore is highly vulnerable to many natural hazards, ranging from coastal storms and flooding to extreme heat and high winds. There is strong consensus that these types of extreme events will increase, both in frequency and intensity, over the coming years. Furthermore, Baltimore’s climate is changing. In the past century, the City has observed shifting trends in weather patterns and climate conditions. Projected changes in the local climate, such as relative seal level rise, combined with impacts from natural hazards events will affect larger areas of the City and threaten regionally significant assets.

Recognizing the City’s current vulnerability to the impacts of severe hazard events, Baltimore has undertaken a thorough, forward-thinking approach to the hazard mitigation planning process. Baltimore’s Disaster Preparedness Project and Plan (DP3) was created by the Department of Planning as an effort to address existing hazards while simultaneously preparing for predicted hazards due to climate change. This project develops a program that integrates hazards mitigation planning, floodplain mapping, and climate adaptation planning. DP3 links research, outreach, and actions to assure implementation of a comprehensive and new risk-preparedness system for addressing existing and future impacts.

Integrating hazard mitigation planning, which focuses on past events, with climate adaptation planning, which focuses on what will likely happen in the future, offers an innovative solution for Baltimore City. Completing a detailed inventory of natural hazards, a risk assessment, and a vulnerability analysis, informs actions to mitigate hazards and adapt to predicted climate impacts. This provides clear guidance and a unified strategy that supports Baltimore’s sustainability and resilience.

In 2000, the President signed into law the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (DMA 2000) in order to reduce the damages associated with natural hazards. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requires that every local jurisdiction in the United States develop and adopt an All Hazards Mitigation Plan (AHMP) as a condition to be eligible for disaster-related assistance. While FEMA requires that local governments update their AHMPs every five years, this plan is much more than a routine update.

An Advisory Committee consisting of representatives from environmental, non-profit, labor, business, community, and developer groups as well as local, state and federal government was developed to advise and provide expertise throughout the process.  The charge to the committee was to develop recommendations to the Mayor on set of goals, strategies and actions the City of Baltimore should implement to reduce risk and increase resiliency. The entire Committee met four times and six times as subcommittees (infrastructure, buildings, natural systems, and public services) throughout the process.

Our Process:

The DP3 project utilized the following process for plan development:

  1. Identify and profile existing hazards.
  2. Conduct an inventory that identifies all assets such as hospitals, schools, etc.
  3. Utilize modeling to identify risk from existing hazards and predicted climate impacts.
  4. Complete a vulnerability analysis of identified assets and critical facilities. Identify exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity.
  5. Identify actions and recommendations to deal with existing hazards and predicted impacts.
  6. Develop implementation plans for these actions, as well as recommendations for stakeholder involvement and funding strategies.

In order to determine the most feasible and effective mitigation and adaptation recommendations for Baltimore, natural hazards which threaten the City had to be identified and defined, and their impacts analyzed. In Baltimore, the following hazards were considered to pose a significant threat:

  • Flooding
  • Coastal Hazards- Tropical Storms and Hurricanes, Nor’easter, Sea Level Rise, and Storm Surge & Coastal Inundation
  • Precipitation Variability- Precipitation, Winter Storms, Drought, Dam Failure
  • Extreme Wind- Associated with Storms, Derechos, Tornados
  • Extreme Heat
  • Air Quality
  • Additional Hazards- Earthquakes, Lightning and Hail, Tsunamis

The Impact Assessment not only identifies those hazards which are likely to affect Baltimore, but also notes the extent and severity of historic events as well as identifies potential changes in the severity of each hazard due scientific climate change projections.

Following the Impact Assessment, the Risk and Vulnerability Assessment chapter describes the risk and vulnerability associated with each type of hazard, including any higher risks associated with increased severity under future climate conditions. Furthermore, it notes specific community assets or critical facilities which may be threatened more than others.

The following goals, strategies and actions are a comprehensive list drafted by the Advisory Committee of experts and advisors. It is a framework document that will be used to draft the content for our entire plan. Keep in mind, while looking at the goals, strategies and actions, there will be a significant amount of content added to provide clarity and further explain the purpose of the recommendation.

The goal of the Disaster Preparedness Project and Plan is to provide clear guidance to city government and our citizens to develop a unified strategy for both hazard mitigation and climate adaptation that supports Baltimore’s sustainability and resilience.

Sectors

One of the most pressing challenges facing municipalities today is the quality and capacity of built public infrastructure—the water systems, schools and municipal buildings, transit systems, and other core assets upon which we all depend. Inadequate or failing public infrastructure will negatively impact the City’s growth. Already, infrastructure in Baltimore has been proven vulnerable to unpredictable, extreme weather events. Extreme heat, and cold, for instance, leads to breaks in the water main system, causing localized flooding that damages surrounding buildings and roadways. Preparing infrastructure for these changes will not only minimize Baltimore’s risk and vulnerability, it will also establish a resilient infrastructure network that is able to endure or adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Baltimore’s buildings, some of which have been significant features in their communities for decades or even centuries, add vibrant charm to the City. In the past, Baltimore’s building stock has been subject to weather-related risks, such as flooding associated with extreme precipitation events. Flooding has caused a great deal of damage, buildings may be destroyed — entirely or in part — or rendered unstable. Resilience of Baltimore’s building stock is particularly important considering that many structures serve as refuge for City residents during severe storms and other extreme weather events. Similarly, critical emergency facilities — hospitals, fire stations, police stations, government buildings— perform essential functions during these events and increase the City’s capacity to respond to, and alleviate, the impacts of a hazard. Additionally, the recommended actions intend to mitigate climate change impacts from buildings by improving energy and resource conservation. The strategies within this plan aim to protect buildings from current and future climate risks by increasing their resiliency.

Although natural systems will indeed suffer adverse consequences as a result of climate change, this plan primarily embraces nature for its potential as a hazard mitigation and climate adaptation tool. In many cases, natural features are capable of offsetting greenhouse gases and alleviating the severity of weather events, effectively reducing long-term risks from climate change and hazards. On the other hand, if not properly maintained, natural elements may themselves become a danger during an extreme weather event. The strategies proposed in this plan aim to identify how and where nature may be managed to the City’s benefit, and what actions must be taken to eliminate all avoidable risks associated with neglected natural systems.

A major role of this plan is to expand Baltimore’s preparedness for future hazards. Without a strategy for conveying information about the risks and vulnerabilities associated with these hazards, its message will fall on deaf ears. Therefore, strategies relating to public health and human services are concerned with distributing information, building resources, improving communication, and establishing response plans. Additionally, strategies are set in place that will prevent or limit health risks — including disease outbreak, physical exhaustion, and respiratory conditions, to name a few — that are triggered by extreme events. Effective public health strategies will ensure that all of Baltimore’s population is prepared, well-informed and able to safely respond to hazards.

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Responding through preparedness, adaptation, & mitigation