Every five years, the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to outline a variety of hazards that most affect the City of Philadelphia.

The Hazard Mitigation Plan (HMP) identifies these hazards and details plans, policies, and projects that will help reduce our risk. This tool also allows the City to remain eligible for federal disaster funding.

The HMP was last updated in 2017 and OEM is starting the process to update the next plan, which must be adopted by City Council prior to June 2022. 

What is Hazard Mitigation?

Hazard mitigation is the act of reducing or eliminating the risk of natural, man-made, or technological disasters. The goal of the plan is to help us understand the hazards we are most at risk for and where our vulnerabilities are. This process helps us identify the needs of our residents and prioritizes potential policies, actions, and measures that can reduce our risk and vulnerability.

How does the planning process benefit Philadelphia?

There are numerous benefits to hazard mitigation planning. An aware and knowledgeable community member contributes to the overall safety, preparedness, and response to emergencies of all shapes and sizes.

What are some hazards facing Philadelphia?

Philadelphia is very prone to flooding. We are an urban environment surrounded by multiple rivers, creeks and streams.  Many non-permeable surfaces like sidewalks, roads, and buildings make our City more prone to flooding. There is not one solution that fits all types of flooding in different areas, and the HMP will examine unique issues facing all neighborhoods.

Another hazard Philadelphia faces is heat. Philadelphia experiences the urban heat island effect, meaning it is hotter in the City than it is in surrounding rural counties. Introducing green space in the right way can help reduce heat and mitigate other hazards as well.  See how the Office of Sustainability is finding ways to “Beat the Heat” in Philadelphia’s Hunting Park neighborhood.

During the 2022 Hazard Mitigation Plan update, OEM will work closely with many partners, including the Office of Sustainability and the City’s Flood Risk Management Task Force, to consider ways we can all work together to reduce our risk to these hazards both now and in the future.

How does the Hazard Mitigation Plan result in meaningful change?

An important part of the planning process is finding ways to implement the plan. Some projects will be conducted and funded by the City, while others may qualify for grant opportunities, or be supported through public/private partnerships. The City’s READYPhiladelphia program is one example of a hazard mitigation project that improved public safety. In the City’s 2012 HMP we identified a need for a more robust alert and warning system that could be used to notify City staff and the public before, during and after severe weather. In the summer of 2015, the City launched its READYPhiladelpha program along with a public campaign to advertise this new resource. Today, READYPhiladelphia has close to 28,000 subscribers, 68 different types of notifications that the public can sign up for, and seven different partner agencies that can send out alerts. You can sign up for basic emergency alerts by texting READYPhila to 888 777.

It takes more than the city to reduce our risk. Hazard Mitigation is a whole community effort. Projects to alleviate any dangers require a collaboration between city agencies, the private sector, and the public to make improvements. Everyone needs to work together to make this happen. Some projects will be conducted and funded by the city staff. Other grant opportunities are available through FEMA, PEMA, public/private partnerships, and other organizations that fund projects and do studies.

What will be new in the 2022 plan?

While climate change is included in the 2017 HMP, Philadelphia OEM hopes to add even more information on how it impacts our risk to natural hazards like flooding and heat. We now have more data and studies available that we will use to determine our risk both now and in the future. We will also include new hazards, like a health pandemic, in the 2022 plan based on lessons we learned from 2020.

OEM will also identify new projects that reduce our risk in the 2022 plan, and will seek ideas from the public on what to include. What would you change or add to the 2022 HMP?

How can the public be involved?

Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods, and our goal is to engage meaningfully with each part of the City during this process. Our hope is the community will take ownership of the many ways they can help make Philadelphia safer and more resilient. OEM will invite the public to participate through public surveys, town hall meetings, workshops, social media outreach, and an updated Hazard Mitigation webpage that will include more visuals, graphs, maps, and charts to increase the accessibility of the plan to the whole community. OEM’s Public Engagement team will consult with other City departments to develop a realistic, but effective plan for engaging more residents and community organizations.

How will the 2022 HMP process work?

Over the next year, OEM will work closely with other City partners, regional partners, the private sector, businesses, and, of course, the public to update the plan so that it reflects our current risks and mitigation goals. In the fall of 2022, a draft of the plan will be released for public review. Residents will then have ample opportunities to review the full plan draft and formulate comments and feedback. After incorporating suggestions from all of our planning partners and the public the tool will be presented to City Council in spring of 2022 and, if adopted, sent to PEMA and FEMA for final approval.

Where can I view the current plan?

The 2012 and 2017 plans can be found on the Hazard Mitigation Plan webpage.

Residents can view hazard profiles of their neighborhoods, read about hazards in the City, and learn about mitigation projects. Updates for the 2022 plan will be posted on the website.

How can I get involved?

If you live, work, or play in Philadelphia, this process impacts you! Please see the City’s Hazard Mitigation Plan webpage for more information on how you can get involved and provide your feedback on the plan.

Follow us on Social Media @PhilaOEM

For questions or to help us spread the word contact us at oem@phila.gov