AbstractThe public policy innovation and adoption processes are dynamic and complex. This is no exception for the adoption of hazard mitigation policies by localities prone to natural hazards. This paper synthesizes theories about policy innovation and adoption, and literature about hazards mitigation, and proposes a theoretical framework for understanding the factors driving hazard mitigation policy adoption at the local level. Our goal is to identify the key elements and parameters of the hazard mitigation policy adoption construct as well as the relationship between them. Using the property buyout program as an example, we present case studies in the states of North Carolina and New Jersey to illustrate a proposed theoretical framework and outline the directions for future research. The case studies show promising evidence consistent with the proposed framework, covering five categories—hazard problem, social context, institutional capacity, cross-sector collaboration, and policy diffusion. In particular, as for institutional capacity, three aspects influence the uptake of buyouts, including individual capacity [e.g., geographic information system (GIS) and technical skills], organizational capacity (e.g., reducing the negative financial impact on the tax base of buyouts and encouraging an innovative culture of flood mitigation strategies), and system capacity (e.g., cooperation among local organizations). To further validate the framework, systematic research of localities with diverse characteristics of policy adopters and nonadopters is needed.Practical ApplicationsFlood hazard mitigation is a policy issue with great significance for governments and thousands of flood-prone communities in the US. Local governments bear the primary responsibility of initiating actions for managing flood hazard. Our theorization exercise and the case studies on the property buyout program highlight the importance of several internal and external factors that influence decisions to pursue this hazard mitigation measure at the local level. For local floodplain managers, disaster resilience officers, and policy entrepreneurs, these findings offer pointers as to where they should focus their effort to maximize the possibility of success. Within the community, developing a comprehensive appreciation of the local flood hazard, GIS, and technical skills of local officials as well as cooperation between local organizations are essential in cultivating a culture that encourages innovative flood mitigation strategies. Externally, coordination and communication between the federal, state, and local levels, as well as learning and emulation of practices in peer communities are key for local success. In this regard, the training workshops and outreach programs of FEMA, FEMA regional offices, and its state counterparts are critical. These programs will elevate the issue on the local agenda, disseminate best practices, demystify the process, and incentivize more mitigation policy adoption.

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