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. 


Related Resources

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Community Heat Relief Plan

The City of Philadelphia’s effort to tackle heat disparities in the city via its Beat the Heat Hunting Park Community Heat Relief Plan (the Plan) provides a roadmap of how to conduct an inclusive climate planning process through a community-based approach to combat urban heat emergencies. The Plan was released in July 2019 by the city’s Office of Sustainability (OOS), in response to increased heat being identified as one of the main climate change threats in the City of Philadelphia. OOS found that communities, where low-income residents and residents of color reside, are also most vulnerable to the heat. To cope with the heat disparities, in the summer of 2018, OOS initiated the Beat the Heat pilot project in Hunting Park, which was identified as the most heat vulnerable neighborhood. The purpose of the project is to identify the causes of heat disparities and utilize a community-driven decision-making process to generate possible solutions for staying cool in the future. The Plan is a collaborative work effort of city agencies, Hunting park organizations, residents, and community groups. Through the community engagement process, three priority areas were identified: 1. Staying cool and safe at home 2. Staying cool and safe in public spaces and 3. Greening and tree planting. Corresponding recommendations and the next steps are further being discussed and presented. The Plan also provides a step-by-step toolkit for communities facing similar situations to reduce inequities and build resiliency.

Baltimore, Maryland 2018 Disaster Preparedness and Planning Project (DP3)

The 2018 revision of Baltimore’s Disaster Preparedness and Planning Project (DP3), first completed by the Department of Planning in 2013, reflects the city’s commitment to reduce impact from current and future natural hazards. The 2018 DP3 identified Baltimore’s vulnerabilities to hazards including coastal storms, flooding, extreme heat, and high winds. The hazard mitigation plan focuses on developing strategies that should reduce or eliminate loss of life and/or property damage within infrastructure, buildings, natural systems, and public services. The project connected the latest scientific research on climate hazards with community-based outreach to identify the priority strategies for hazard mitigation in Baltimore. The updated plan also added a Strategy Sub-Committee consisting of agencies responsible for implementing the actions and an Equity and Outreach Sub-Committee to engage community members with an equity framework for residents most vulnerable to natural disasters.

Resilient Boston: An Equitable and Connected City

The Resilient Boston plan focuses on racial equity, social cohesion, and resilience strategies for Boston, Massachusetts. The report outlines visions, goals, and actions that support climate change adaptation measures and solutions targeting the most vulnerable residents in the city. Resilient Boston is part of the city’s participation in the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative. The effects of climate change on Boston are discussed in the report - and the city acknowledges that climate change presents “significant shocks and stresses for Boston.” According to the report, Boston has already experienced 21 extreme weather-related events that triggered federal or state disaster declarations since 1991. 

Communities of Oakland Respond to Emergencies - Oakland, California

Oakland, California’s Communities of Oakland Respond to Emergencies (CORE) program is a free educational and training program offered by the Oakland Fire Department that promotes the creation of emergency preparedness in the face of a disaster event. Offered mainly to individuals, neighborhood groups, and community-based organizations, CORE training focuses on teaching its students how to become more self-sufficient during emergency events for a period of up to 10 days following a disaster. Outreach to attract participants has focused on reaching lower-income communities, multilingual individuals, disabled residents, and other groups or people with access and functional needs. The overall purpose of the CORE program is to not only improve access to disaster response training, materials, and services but also to reduce risks associated with current and future climate events. Since its founding, CORE has reached over 20,000 people throughout the Oakland community.

San Diego County, California Emergency Operations Plan: Annex Q Evacuation

The San Diego County Emergency Operations Plan (the Plan) is accompanied by an appendix, Annex Q which focuses on Evacuation specifically by providing general evacuation routes and road capacities, county-wide shelter capacities, resources available locally and through mutual aid and access considerations for people with disabilities. Annex Q is used by all key partner agencies within the county to respond to major emergencies and disasters. It was approved by the County Board of Supervisors in September 2018 and was born out of the lessons learned from evacuating New Orleans residents during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, as well as hurricanes Irma and Harvey in 2017. Annex Q outlines strategies, procedures, recommendations, and organizational structures that can be used to implement a coordinated evacuation effort in the San Diego County Operational Area. Annex Q also contains estimates on the number of residents within communities in the county who may require evacuation assistance, sheltering, transportation, and help with pet evacuation. 

  Previous Next