Image: Wildfire Apparatus Staging Area in Chino, CA by Casey Deshong, FEMA / Wikimedia Commons

Climate change will continue to increase the frequency and severity of extreme weather events.[1] The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change defines extreme weather as events, such as droughts or floods, that have historically occurred on average only once in 100 years and vary from "the norm" in severity or duration. Recent examples in California include the drought that ran from 2011-2015, the wettest year on record in 2016 in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains, and historic wildfires that continue to increase in frequency, size, and devastation.[2, 3] Climate change is anticipated to increase and exacerbate these and other hazards, impacting all phases of emergency management and hazard mitigation. Building resilience is critical to confront these hazards.

Emergency management encompasses preparedness, disaster response, recovery, and longer-term resilience planning. Planning across this spectrum is critical for emergency management, including working to identify hazards and emergency response priorities for longer-term resilience to climate change impacts, as well as seeking mitigation through avoidance of hazards by new projects and reduction of risk in developed areas. Coordination between federal, state, and local agencies and jurisdictions is necessary to achieve resilience across the state, and various planning requirements in California help facilitate that coordination. As California confronts mounting climate change impacts, local governments are now required to include in their Local Hazard Mitigation Plans (LHMPs) a climate change vulnerability assessment, measures to address vulnerabilities, and a comprehensive hazard mitigation and emergency response strategy, as explained in OPR’s General Plan Guidelines, Safety Element. Further information on climate adaptation planning is covered on the Land Use and Community Development page. The safety element of the general plan plays an important role in ensuring consistency with the Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (LHMP) and the State’s Hazard Mitigation Plan (SHMP). The general plan and LHMP both provide a local vehicle for implementation of the SHMP, including the provisions dealing with climate change.

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