Edited Version March 17, 1999 Transcript
EIIP Virtual Forum Panel Discussion

"State of Missouri
Hazard Mitigation Grant Program"

Featured Panelists

Buck Katt, Deputy Director
Missouri Emergency Management Agency

Destin Frost, State Hazard Mitigation Officer
Missouri Emergency Management Agency

Melva Fast, Grant Coordinator
City of Jefferson City, Missouri

Ken Eftink, Development Services Coordinator
Cape Girardeau, Missouri

The original transcript of the March 17, 1999 online Virtual Forum Panel Discussion is available in the EIIP Virtual Forum <http://www.emforum.org>. The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. Typos were corrected, date/time/names attributed by the software to each were deleted but content of discussion, questions, and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers from the presenter to questions by the audience are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning.


Amy Sebring: Welcome to the Panel room of the Virtual Forum this fine St. Patrick's Day! Top o' the mornin' to y'all!

We are wrapping up the Mitigation Quarter today with a Panel interview on the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. Background information for today's session may be found at


We are honored to have with us a number of representatives from the state of Missouri to share their experiences following the major flooding experienced there.


Mr. Buck Katt, Deputy Director, Missouri Emergency Management Agency had planned to be with us today, but he had an unexpected family emergency last night. We have Judy Collier sitting in for him for the introduction, but he will obviously not be able to participate in the Question and Answer.

We are pleased to welcome:

· Ms. Destin Frost, State Hazard Mitigation Officer, Missouri Emergency Management Agency

· Ms. Melva Fast, Grant Coordinator, City of Jefferson City, Missouri

· Mr. Ken Eftink, Development Services Coordinator, Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

Welcome to you all. We will take about 30 minutes for an interview style presentation, and then open it up to the audience. We begin with Mr. Katt.


Amy Sebring: Buck, as a basis for our discussion today, please give us some historical background on the HMGP and its purpose.

Buck Katt: Hazard mitigation became an important component of disaster recovery in 1988 when the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 was amended by the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. The "Stafford" Act allowed the federal government (i.e. FEMA) to contribute up to 50% of the cost of hazard mitigation projects.

In 1993, the Hazard Mitigation and Relocation Assistance Act amended the Stafford Act to increase the amount the federal government may contribute from 50 to 75%. Interestingly, Congressman Volkmer from Hannibal, Missouri introduced the 1993 amendment and this action set in motion the ability for states to really implement hazard mitigation activities that could make a substantial difference.

The purpose of the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program is to provide funding for projects that will reduce the effects of the next disaster event. For example, assume a community is flooded and 30 homes are damaged. The community may request an HMGP grant to buyout those homes. The homes are acquired and demolished. The land is returned to its natural state. This is hazard mitigation. The land can now flood over and over again and there will be no consequence to the community or its residents.

That is the purpose of the HMGP. To make the next disaster event as uneventful as possible. It should be pointed out though that the HMGP is strictly a post-disaster grant program. In other words, no funding is available until the President declares the area a disaster site.

Amy Sebring: What are the objectives of the HMGP?

Buck Katt:: To make the next disaster event as uneventful as possible. To hopefully eliminate the need for disaster assistance in the future.

Amy Sebring: How is the funding shared between federal, state, and local interests under the HMGP?

Buck Katt: Up to 75% of the cost of a project can be provided by the federal government. The remaining 25% must be what is called a non-federal match. The non-federal match can be cash from either the state or local community or in-kind services provided by the local community.

Amy Sebring: Thanks Judy for pitching in. We turn to our State Hazard Mitigation Officer next. Destin, who is eligible for Hazard Mitigation funding?

Destin Frost: States, local communities (city or county), Indian tribes, Alaska Native Villagers and to a certain extent not-for-profits.

Amy Sebring: What types of projects may be funded in the public/private interest?

Destin Frost: The types of projects eligible for funding can be of any nature that will result in protecting public or private property.

Amy Sebring: Examples?

Destin Frost: Examples include property acquisition or relocation and retrofitting of facilities. It should be pointed out that FEMA strongly encourages the buyout, elevation, or relocation of structures a priority.

Amy Sebring: How do applicants apply for HMGP funding?

Destin Frost: Local communities need to contact their State Emergency Management Agency for application procedures. Each state has established their own application process.

Amy Sebring: From your Missouri experience, how much interest has there been in the hazard mitigation process? (number of applicants, etc.)

Destin Frost: In Missouri, the program is very competitive. We always have more projects than available funds. For example, following the Great Flood of 1993, we had over $200 million in hazard mitigation funding requests but only $30 million to spend.

This is why it is very important for states to prioritize what they want to accomplish. In 1993, moving families out of harm's way was our main goal and remains our main focus.

We do know that nationally too, the program is very competitive. We work very closely with our state counterparts, helping each other out, and the HMGP is one of the most popular post-disaster grant programs.

Amy Sebring: What type of success stories have been documented in the State of Missouri?

Destin Frost: We have created several hazard mitigation success stories documents. The types of stories are mostly the flood buyout. For example, in one community, Cape Girardeau, the total net historical flood insurance claims on the homes acquired in that community was over $1 million. The community spent just a little over $2 million to

accomplish the buyout. Those flood claims will never have to be paid out again.

The flood insurance claims were just one cost to the community. The fire department will not have to rescue flood victims, volunteers will not have to sandbag, the list goes on and on.

Amy Sebring: For the local perspective, we now turn to Melva and Ken. How did you first hear of the HMGP program and that your community might be eligible to apply?

Ken Eftink: We were aware of the program through our involvement in the National Flood Insurance Program. The local match was a problem for our community so our officials were reluctant to participate. However, in 1995, we were approached by Buck Katt and Destin Frost of the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency who made us aware of funding available through the State that would help the City with the local match. They met with us and we worked out a buyout program with funding from different sources.

Melva Fast: We heard of the program through the State Emergency Management Agency during the 1993 Flood in December.

Amy Sebring: How much work was involved with your grant application and who participated in preparing it?

Melva Fast: The application was quite easy and the State Emergency Management staff offered assistance.

Ken Eftink: The grant application was not that difficult. We had been tracking the properties affected by the flooding so we had a good list of properties and owners. The State helped facilitate several meetings to pull the partners together to work out the details. We had help from our local regional planning commission who works with us on other grant applications but the HMGP application was not difficult to complete.

Amy Sebring: Why was YOUR application successful? Melva? Ken?

Melva Fast: Our application was successful because we could demonstrate a need that was significant and as I said the application was straightforward in what is required.

Ken Eftink: Our application was successful for several reasons. One was the obvious need as a result of multiple flood events which resulted in repetitive loss that we had documented with maps and photographs. We prioritized our buyout based on the first floor elevation of the homes compared to the base flood elevation so that homes that flooded first were offered the buyout first.

Another important reason was the partnership that came together for the program. FEMA/SEMA provided funding for acquisition and demolition, Missouri Department of Economic Development provided funding for relocation assistance and the Salvation Army and the Interfaith Coalition provided funding for unmet needs.

Amy Sebring: Once you were awarded the grant, how did you make sure you stayed on track with your goals and requirements?

Ken Eftink: Our project took more time than we anticipated. We found that the buyout people we were dealing with needed one-on-one consultations in order to fully understand the program before they would decide to participate. The coordination of the environmental engineer with the asbestos abatement contractor and the demolition contractor was an ongoing problem.

People who waited until the last minute to decide to participate also added time to the project but we were happy to get them. We did do a detailed expense report spread sheet that allowed to closely monitor our expenses so that we only missed the budget on the $2.7 million project by $7,000.

Amy Sebring: That's pretty amazing, the $7,000, Ken.

Melva Fast: Our city designated a project/grant coordinator who was responsible to meet the goals and objectives of the program as well the meet all of the requirements.

Amy Sebring: What impact has this had in your community?

Ken Eftink: We have gone from 151 homes affected by the Flood of 1993 to only 24 homes remaining, most of which are at higher elevations that would flood less frequently. Our disaster needs during a river flood event have been drastically reduced. There will be a substantial reduction in the cost of the City's response and well as other service organizations to a comparable flood event.

After the 1993 flood event, we saw people working to help fix up homes with assistance from various agencies, churches and private donations from around the world only to see many of the same homes flood again in 1995. These neighborhoods were run down because of the flooding and other social problems were starting to develop. The lesson we learned was that if you want to help people out, help them out of the floodplain. We have helped a significant number of families to now have a safe, decent home.

Melva Fast: It has been one of the most significant programs in the 150 year history of the City of Jefferson. No longer are residents and citizens living in the floodway and threatened by impending floods. City resources and staff can now direct their attention/resources to other needs.

Amy Sebring: Destin, how do these two communities fit into your overall state mitigation strategy?

Destin Frost: For flooding, our overall state mitigation strategy is to move families out of harm's way. Obviously, from what Ken and Melva have just described, these two communities are perfect examples of how effective hazard mitigation can be.

Amy Sebring: Thank you all. We will now open it up to our audience. Please remember to send in a question mark to indicate you wish to ask a question, then get your question ready, but wait until you are ecognized before you send it in. Please indicate to whom your question is addressed.

[Audience Questions]


Keith Bea: For both state and local reps: What is the best federal role in local mitigation efforts? Funding source, technical assistance, motivator, transferor of "best practices", or others? Should FEMA "strongly encourage" buyouts or take a more neutral stance?

Destin Frost: There is a strong movement by state emergency management offices nationwide to move the hazard mitigation grant program to the states as a block grant. This approach will (very much) streamline the process. The best federal role for local mitigation efforts is to provide the funding and offer suggestions/alternatives for mitigation efforts.

Ken Eftink: FEMA through SEMA should encourage participation. It saves us all money not to mention the reduction in suffering due to displacement. SEMA is closer to the problem and other partners.

Melva Fast: I concur with Ken.


Steve McMaster: How do you get word out about availability of HMGP funds in Missouri?

Destin Frost: Because the HMGP is a post-disaster program we send the word out immediately following a presidential event. We always send letters to each community in a declared area but we also know of existing needs in certain "at risk" communities so we try to do one-on-one approaches too.


Keith Bea: Are property owners always (without exception) ready to relocate? Have you experience with any reluctant to sell?

Ken Eftink: Not always. They may not be able to buy a replacement home for what we can offer.


Amy Sebring: Melva, your experience with reluctance to move? Are there some people that just don't want to move?

Melva Fast: After 1993, the flood was so devastating that owners (90%) "begged" for a buyout so that they could relocate. Others voluntarily stayed, but only a few---especially in those areas where rehab was not feasible.


Amy Sebring: Destin, is there more emphasis now with State Hazard Mitigation Officers to do a statewide hazard analysis for the purpose of developing state-wide mitigation strategies?

Destin Frost: Most states (to my knowledge) have already conducted a statewide hazard analysis. The part that is weak is developing goals and objectives for reducing the effects of the hazards. So, there is now a push to develop these goals and objectives. But personally, until there is a mandate that "no vision...no funds", I don't think the time will be spent on this type of planning like it should be.


Keith Bea: How does the local community deal with the lower income families who cannot move?

Amy Sebring: Ken, how did you solve this problem in your community, since you referred to it.

Ken Eftink: We tried to look at the total needs of the families and the Salvation Army and Interfaith helped meet their needs so they could move.


Avagene Moore: Since flooding has been such a dramatic disaster in Missouri, do you

see evidence of mitigation measures being implemented in non-disaster communities? Is there more interest in mitigation because it is the sensible thing to do?

Destin Frost: Yes. Without a doubt we have a heightened awareness and interest in mitigation.

Melva Fast: In Jefferson City, how program gave owners "pr-flood" value in the buyout. This allowed owners resources to find other housing opportunities. Most of the individuals, in fact, were low income.

Ken Eftink: I hope so. It was not raining when Noah built the Ark.


Shari Coffin: Do they do a cost-benefit analysis for each project; how does that work?

Destin Frost: Yes, each project must be what is called cost EFFECTIVE. Part of that is do run the numbers and do a cost-benefit analysis. The cost benefit ratio must be greater than one. However, we can submit projects that are less than one if it is obvious that other cost effective issues are involved.


Amy Sebring: Destin, you have good data for previous flood experience now to factor in? (Clarification: You are looking at the flood history in these communities that you factor in?)

Destin Frost: Yes, most certainly.


Amy Sebring: Ken or Melva, did you have previous experience with claims for flooding?

Melva fast: Not to my knowledge. I'm sure there were hundreds of flood insurance claims, I initially responded to as to "city claims".

Ken Eftink: We had over 300 flood insurance claims on 101 properties. The NFIP has records on repetitive loss for a community.


Avagene Moore: Destin, how are you promoting the mitigation experiences and

benefits throughout the State of Missouri?

Destin Frost: Our promotion efforts have been varied. Two years ago we developed a professional flood insurance commercial featuring our Governor. This did not increase the number of flood policies much.


Amy Sebring: Destin, I would like to know if Ken and Melva have been sharing their experience with other communities in Missouri.

Melva Fast: I have received a few calls from communities but more about how to run a buyout program after the funding was awarded.

Ken Eftink: I will be giving two programs at the Missouri Floodplain Managers Association meeting in April to share our experiences.

Destin Frost: We also host an earthquake awareness week whereby mitigation efforts are demonstrated. For the most part, it's word of mouth. Again, we know those communities that are mostly "at risk" and we seem to target them individually.


Shari Coffin: Have you done any projects other than buyouts?

Destin Frost: Yes, we have funded the purchase and installation of 3 NOAA Weather Transmitters, 2) purchased digitized FIRM maps so our communities have access to computerized flood maps; several small earthquake grants; bridge removal and a small channel realignment project.


Amy Sebring: Destin, and then Ken and Melva, do you have any other mitigation projects planned?

Ken Eftink: We are working on a flood control project that includes channelization and stormwater detention. We have also elevated some streets and City structures.

Destin Frost: Oh, I forgot; we do elevations and relocations of residential structures too (just a few).

Melva Fast: The City is looking at a few later. This would include protecting a major expressway through the City.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much Destin, Melva, and Ken for sharing your experiences with us today and a special thanks to Destin for helping to coordinate today's session and to Judy for pitching in.

Before we close the Panel Room; Avagene, will you please announce our

upcoming events?

Avagene Moore: Thanks, Amy. Next week, the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) will lead our Round Table discussion on Tuesday, March 23, 1:00 PM EST. The topic is mentoring --- two IAEM members will share their first-hand experiences.

On Wednesday, March 24, 12: 00 Noon EST, the Open GIS Consortium (OGC) will be in the Tech Arena. The OGC focus will the Disaster Management Special Interest Group (DM SIG). Guest speakers will be Louis Hecht, Lance McKee and Jim Farley.

Make your plans to be present for both sessions. Back to you, Amy.

Amy Sebring: Thank you Ava, and thank you audience for joining us today. We will close the Panel room for today, but you are invited to join us for a few minutes more back in the Virtual Forum room for some open discussion.