From Ideas to Actions: Hazard Mitigation Policy Adoption—Analysis of Floodplain Property Buyout Program

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


Climate change is exerting a profound influence on natural hazards, resulting in increased frequency, intensity, and altered patterns of extreme weather events. These changes pose significant risks to vulnerable populations worldwide. Consequently, it is imperative to adopt hazard mitigation policies to address the impacts of climate change on natural hazards and communities. The adoption of such policies is a complex and dynamic process that requires a thorough understanding of the key factors influencing policy adoption. The United States has experienced a rise in the severity and frequency of floods, necessitating the implementation of comprehensive flood mitigation policies. These policies aim to protect vulnerable communities, safeguard critical infrastructure, and reduce the economic and human costs associated with these natural disasters. Among the various flood mitigation strategies, floodplain property buyout programs have garnered attention. However, there is limited research that examines the factors influencing the adoption of buyout programs at the local government level from a government perspective.

This dissertation provides a comprehensive analysis of the adoption process of floodplain property buyout programs at the local level in the United States. The study employs a mixed methods approach to examine the mechanism behind policy adoption and identify the key factors that influence this process. Chapter 1 lays the foundation for the research by defining relevant terms and outlining the characteristics of floodplain property buyout programs in the U.S. Chapter 2 presents a theoretical framework that enhances our understanding of hazard mitigation policy adoption at the local level. The framework is exemplified through case studies of property buyout programs in North Carolina and New Jersey. The case studies conducted in these states offer compelling evidence that supports the proposed framework, which encompasses five-factor categories: hazard problem, social context, institutional capacity, cross-sector collaboration, and policy diffusion. Notably, institutional capacity plays a crucial role in buyout adoption, encompassing individual, organizational, and system capacity. These factors influence the uptake of buyouts and contribute to their success or failure. This exercise gives us valuable insights into the buyout decision making process and suggests avenues for research in the subsequent chapters.

Chapter 3 conducts a quantitative analysis to validate the hazard mitigation policy adoption framework. Specifically, it focuses on investigating the factors that influence the adoption of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) property buyout programs by local governments in Virginia counties. Utilizing logistic regression models and a survey dataset collected from local floodplain managers in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the study reveals that floodplain managers' perception of repetitive flood loss and economic spillovers in neighboring areas significantly impact the adoption of buyout programs.

In Chapter 4, we conduct a qualitative approach to delve into the decision-making dynamics in the adoption of floodplain property buyout programs from a government perspective in Virginia. Through semi-structured interviews with 12 experts representing various stakeholders involved in floodplain management, this study demonstrates the variations in the adoption processes among different local governments. The findings underscore the importance of leadership, community population size, floodplain managers' perception of repetitive flood loss, organizational staff capacity, and tax revenue considerations in shaping buyout decisions. It highlights the need for local leadership commitment, empowerment of floodplain managers, and comprehensive approaches to address challenges faced by small communities. The research provides practical guidance to enhance flood risk management practices and promote resilient and sustainable communities.

In conclusion, this dissertation contributes to the understanding of hazard mitigation policy adoption at the local level by proposing a theoretical framework and providing empirical evidence through case studies, surveys, and interviews. The findings emphasize the importance of various factors, such as hazard problem, social context, institutional capacity, and policy diffusion, in shaping buyout policy adoption. The implications of this research extend to policymakers, practitioners, and researchers, providing insights into the motivations, obstacles, and strategies surrounding the adoption and implementation of hazard mitigation policies. By considering these factors and employing comprehensive approaches, communities can enhance their resilience and effectively mitigate the impacts of natural hazards.



Hazard Mitigation, Policy Adoption, and Floodplain Property Buyout Program