Equitable Adaptation Legal & Policy Toolkit

Disaster Preparedness Planning Tools

Planning through the creation of a regional, city, or community-scale disaster preparedness document is one way to ensure that equity is a focus of how cities are preparing for disasters. A disaster preparedness plan is one that includes measures that anticipate and, where possible, mitigate their impact on vulnerable populations, and respond to and effectively cope with their consequences. This section includes examples of local and community-driven plans that address equity in making decisions about disaster preparedness solutions to climate threats. Truly equitable approaches can be developed through diverse and inclusive planning processes. This section also highlights examples of these processes, and how planners are engaging with communities in the design and development of plans. Community-driven plans can ensure that residents have an influence in determining how disaster preparedness solutions are deployed in their communities. This section also includes tools to help planners consider socioeconomic and other risk factors when developing plans and identifying potential high-risk communities. When planning for those that are the most vulnerable in disasters, practitioners must always consider compounding risks factors like how the solutions may be affected and be especially challenging in an era of a health pandemic like COVID-19 because solutions often call for people to come together for shelter/food/water, evacuations, etc. “Double disasters” have become more apparent and creative solutions will be ever-evolving with time. 

Considerations of Planning Tools for Disaster Preparedness


  • Plans and community planning processes may require significant government funding and staff resources. Governments should evaluate potential funding options for planning and potential project implementation. Public-private partnerships can also provide funding and other types of support.
  • Planning for climate disasters can mitigate economic losses.
  • Governments and communities should think about opportunities to make plans living and useful documents, including by allocating funding for or creating partnerships to implement priority projects included in plans. 


  • Disaster events such as hurricanes, droughts, floods, heatwaves, and wildfires are forecasted to become more frequent and intense and thus, more deadly and destructive over time. 
  • To deal with some of these disaster events, plans can either address specific issues, such as urban heat, or can address climate impacts in general, like sea-level rise, etc.
  • Planning can provide an opportunity to create environmental co-benefits that work towards several areas of climate change impacts.


  • Input from the community on plans can help mitigate some adverse consequences for communities that are experiencing the worst effects. 
  • Input from the community can allow plans to address the issues that are most important and that directly affect the lives of those on the frontlines of climate change.


  • There is a need for coordination across the various government agencies that may be involved in developing and implementing plans to mitigate the impacts of climate disasters, which can include the involvement of local governments, small businesses, individuals, etc. in the process. 


  • Those tasked with planning often do not have the authority to implement these strategies. Local governments and individuals can benefit from legal expertise to inform the drafting of ordinances or provisions to overcome the legal barriers to implement suggestions.
  • Some plans must be approved by certain agencies and follow existing guidelines to receive federal disaster-related assistance. 
  • Different legal tools and strategies, like buyouts and stimulus mechanisms, can be built into plans to streamline disaster response and recovery.

Lessons Learned

  • Community-based groups should be involved with the creation of these proactive plans from the beginning of the process to develop a successful plan for those directly affected. There is often distrust between frontline communities and the government/agencies that implement preparedness plans. Conducting significant outreach and making sure community leaders are involved can reassure the community that their interests are being considered and that there is accountability and transparency built into the process of developing a preparedness plan.
  • Community members and government agencies can form partnerships to effectively move plans into implementation phases to create change. This will require ongoing opportunities for community input and support from planning staff. This can also help to reassure communities who have been let down in the past that their input has been valuable and is leading to better preparedness in the face of climate events. To ensure that this implementation occurs, plans can include benchmark projects or create some sort of accountability mechanism to track the execution of the plan.
  • To leverage more funding opportunities, disaster preparedness plans can incorporate other environmental co-benefits in planning for climate disasters. Various opportunities for funding exist from nonprofits, the federal government, and private businesses to advance environmental initiatives such as installing renewable energy solutions.
  • The creation of disaster preparedness plans may have an upfront cost. Still, these costs are vastly outweighed by the economic devastation to individuals within a community, the businesses that are not prepared for a disaster, and the resulting fiscal impact of reduced tax revenue. Conducting education and outreach regarding the amount of money that can be saved by developing and implementing a robust disaster preparedness plan can help to encourage their creation. 


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