As a dense, coastal New England city, Boston is vulnerable to many natural hazards such as flooding, severe winter weather, sea level rise, urban heat islands, and more. The City of Boston Office of Emergency Management (OEM) was seeking to update their Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan (NHMP) that had been approved in 2016 to document progress and identify new projects to reduce risks. Based upon our experience with hazard mitigation and climate change planning for local communities, the city retained Weston & Sampson to lead this effort, which included public engagement, stakeholder coordination, and updates to the previous NHMP.
We began by gathering available historic data, maps, and reports from relevant state, federal, and local agencies, utilities, and nongovernmental organizations. We then engaged a diverse group of local leaders to determine the best way to engage the public and other stakeholders early in the process, guided by equity goals and metrics that helped us measure success or identify the need to adjust our approach. Our team conducted a wide array of multilingual virtual engagement efforts, including Zoom workshops, stakeholder interviews, public webinars, project videos, and an online survey. We actively sought opportunities to share media and collect feedback, including a fact sheet, social media posts, and monthly updates to a project webpage. We also organized a “Street Team” of departments with ties to the community who shared their feedback and helped get the word out about the project.
We then identified and assessed potential natural hazards and vulnerable infrastructure and examined the history of natural hazards and regional climate change projections to determine which sites were more prone to natural hazards. We provided preliminary guidance on the range of strategy recommendations and their feasibility and community benefits. We updated the NHMP, in close coordination with other planning efforts like Climate Ready Boston and the engagement of a steering committee, with a narrative on how the plan will be carried out and progress monitored. The final report is a highly visual, user-friendly guide that communicates information through accessible language and diagrams. Once approved by federal and state emergency management agencies, the updated NHMP will provide a reliable and publicly acceptable roadmap, based on the latest climate change science, for protecting Boston’s most vulnerable neighborhoods from the worst of natural hazards for many years to come. This update, pending FEMA approval, will also make the city eligible for federal grants.
Key Project Features:
community outreach, education, and engagement
stakeholder engagement and coordination
inclusion, diversity, equity, and access considerations
risk and vulnerability assessment
natural hazard mitigation planning