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Local Government Risk Management & Mitigation 2023

By GovPilot

In 2022, local governments are coming to the realization that the world has changed in many ways, and that there are a multitude of risks and challenges that the public sector needs to adapt to and prepare for. From cyber threats to natural disasters, to employee retention, local leaders must understand a changing landscape and make risk management a priority. 

In this article, you’ll get a holistic view of the issues your community needs to consider a risk, as well as informative insights into the most critical government risk mitigation techniques to implement in your municipality or county. 

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What is Government Risk Management? 

Government risk management is the process of a public sector entity considering potential dangers that pose the risk of having an adverse effect on your community and constituents. Typically, once hazardous risks are identified, mitigation techniques are put in place to reduce the potential negative impact. 

An all encompassing local government risk management strategy considers natural disasters, cyber attacks, quality of physical and digital infrastructure, dangers to public safety and health, and local economic performance. 

For elected officials, additional risks to consider and avoid include losing reelection, receiving negative press, losing government employees, failing to retain government employees, and being unpopular amongst constituents. 

What is Government Risk Mitigation?

While government risk management is the process of considering the risks at hand, government risk mitigation is the actual implementation of techniques to reduce the negative impact of an emergency situation.

Common mitigation techniques include updating antiquated physical and digital infrastructure, encouraging local economic development and job growth, and making an effort to keep government roles filled and processes moving as quickly as possible. 

How to Assess Risk in Your Community?

Every local government has its own unique challenges and risks to consider. Geographic location, population size, budgeting, and a myriad of other factors impact which risks to consider and the ability to implement public sector mitigation techniques.

That being said, let’s take a look at the types of questions local government officials need to be asking when considering public sector risk management:

1) Which natural disasters pose the biggest risk to your community?

Every local government needs to consider the risk of natural disasters. Obviously, the big difference between regions is which natural disasters to anticipate. 

Depending on your geographic location, you should be considering having a risk management strategy for these types of natural disasters:

  • Flooding - this is one everyone should consider - even people who do not live in an official flood zone
  • Hurricanes
  • Rockslides
  • Tornadoes
  • Earthquakes
  • Snow storms / Blizzards 
  • Extreme hot or cold temperatures

Government Risk Mitigation Techniques for Natural Disasters

To mitigate the impact of a natural disaster in your community, your main priorities should include updating infrastructure to withstand a harsh storm and training constituents on natural disaster preparedness. 

The most critical key to mitigating the impact of a disaster on local physical infrastructure is to use recommended materials when building new construction or updating antiquated infrastructure. FEMA offers helpful resources about the best types of materials for withstanding each storm category, and even a simple Google search along the lines of “tornado construction standards” will provide helpful insights for planning and budgeting future public construction processes. Learn more in our What is Disaster Resilient Infrastructure guide for local governments. 

As for training constituents, your local government should consider starting a certified emergency response team (if you haven’t already.) A key part of a CERT’s responsibilities includes regular training of constituents on the best techniques for responding to an emergency disaster situation. 

For helpful emergency preparedness resources in your community, read on in these resourceful guides: 

2) Is your physical infrastructure up to date?

The Surfside condo collapse in 2021 that left 98 people dead was a horrific reminder of the risk that aging infrastructure poses. Slow-moving bureaucratic processes have allowed what was once state-of-the-art infrastructure across the United States like public buildings, roads, bridges, commercial, and residential buildings to age drastically. As we discussed above, much of this infrastructure is not suited to withstand a natural disaster. 

To prevent the risk of death in your community as a result of aging infrastructure, your government risk management strategy needs to consider which buildings, roads, and bridges in your community need updating and improve inspection workflows to ensure dangerous hazards don’t go unnoticed in local infrastructure. 

Government Risk Mitigation Techniques for Aging Infrastructure

Luckily, federal and state governments are aware of the importance of bringing American infrastructure nationally up to a modern standard. 

At the current moment, applying for Federal American Rescue Plan Act and Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act grants for infrastructure projects is the best way to take action on mitigating the risks of aging infrastructure. Consider what infrastructure in your community needs a facelift, and present your case to the federal government for the opportunity to make positive change in the structures in your community. 

Embracing modern inspection software to be used by your local government and private-sector inspection partners is your best bet for making sure all local infrastructure is safe and secure. A simple mobile application allows inspectors to access properties quickly and smoothly. Once an inspection is complete, the mobile inspection data is automatically uploaded to the cloud and accessible to all local government officials and partners. That means better efficiency performing inspections, time savings for everyone involved, and automatic storage of pertinent inspection data.

For more resources about infrastructure projects in your community, read on: 

3) Is your government data properly secured and backed up? 

Government data breaches are becoming far too common; costing millions in taxpayer dollars and the loss of important and private governments and constituents data. To prevent cyber attacks in your community and ensure the back-up of critical government data, a public sector risk mitigation strategy should include ensuring that your government IT department has the necessary resources and staffing needs and moving away from antiquated physical computer systems towards more secure cloud services with automatic data backup. 

Government Cyber Attack Risk Mitigation Techniques

As geopolitical competitors like Russia, China, and Iran (and even domestic hackers) continue to strike international government entities and private businesses with ransomware cyber attacks, municipal and county governments need to move swiftly to prevent getting breached. If you’re not proactive, hackers can identify holes in antiquated computer systems and strike. 

Your government should recruit information technology experts and use ticketing software to keep government tech issues organized. Great IT workflows paired with expert information technology employees will ensure that your government technology is up to speed, computer systems remain functional across departments, and your cyber secure.

To prevent government data loss, encourage all departments to switch to cloud-based government infrastructure. The cloud is substantially more secure and difficult for hackers to break into, and automatically backs up government data on a frequent basis. 

To learn more about government cybersecurity, read on: 

Your local government should have a finalized Local Government Cybersecurity Management Plan like the one deployed in New York to help your municipality stay on top of cybersecurity measures in your locality.

4) How is the local economy performing?

Encouraging local economic development is a crucial responsibility of a municipal or county government. Unfortunately, national and international variables can impact how the economy is performing in your own backyard.

That said, you can manage the impact of an economic downturn by encouraging local business registration and leveraging commercial and residential construction projects to create more jobs, encourage people to move in, and increase the amount of dollars being spent in your community. 

Government Risk Mitigation Techniques for Economic Development

Even if the national economy tanks, doubling down on the local economic opportunities in your area will ensure constituents are able to continue to work and make a living in a time of hardship. 

Here are a few ways to locally mitigate the risk of an economic downturn:

  • Encourage business registration: online business registration will encourage more businesses to register in your community. Whether that entails remote workers setting up shop in your neighborhood or physical businesses opening up on Main Street, more registration means better tax revenue for your community and more service / product offerings for your constituents. 

  • Streamline construction project workflows: when building a project from the ground up, general contractors and business men/women alike consider how easy the local government is to work with regarding permitting, inspections, etc. when deciding where to build. By offering simple and intuitive online permit applications and inspection requests and approving paperwork quickly, your reputation as a local government with great construction workflows will bode well with developers. 
  • Approve commercial and residential construction projects: more places for people to live means more constituents. More commercial property means more local businesses and more options for local constituents to spend money within your locality. The combination of the two means residual economic growth! 

5) Are government employees sticking around?

Employee retention is a major challenge for the private sector as a whole. With more competitive salaries and benefits in private sector roles, convincing qualified talent to go with the public sector is easier said than done.

Having open job roles and being unable to find good talent pose major risks for the continuity of local government. That means, in order to maintain bureaucratic workflows to the best of your local government’s abilities, your risk management strategy will need to consider employee recruiting and retention. 

Government Risk Mitigation Techniques for Recruiting and Retaining Public Workers

To mitigate the risk of open job roles hindering government processes, you’ll need to double down on keeping government workers happy and motivated.

To do so, here are a few recommendations to recruit and maintain employees:

  • Use modern technology: most people associate government with slow moving, mindless administrative work. In upgrading to modern government technology that automates boring administrative processes, bureaucracy will move much more quickly and government workers will feel a sense of accomplishment prioritizing more meaningful work. 
  • Offer remote / hybrid job roles: the perfect modern government work structure is a hybrid between remote and in-person work. In allowing for remote work, you’ll entice more people to apply for open roles and keep existing employees happy by cutting their weekly commute time. 
  • Highlight good work and provide feedback: public sector workers are no different than anyone else: a little praise can go a long way. Government leadership should regularly extend an olive branch to government workers that do a good job, and should be willing to offer constructive feedback so that employees can learn and improve their processes. 

For more help with recruiting and retaining employees, read these extensive guides:

6) Are public safety and health standards up to par? 

Managing local covid-19 protocol was a major responsibility of local governments in recent years. Unfortunately, disorganization and a lack of preparedness for adjusting to remote work resulted in many local governments falling flat on their duties. 

As for public safety, preparing for work-case scenarios like terrorist attacks or mass shootings also fall on the local government.

A government risk management strategy needs to consider any emergency situation that puts the health and safety of your constituents at risk and take action to mitigate the impact.

Government Risk Mitigation Techniques for Ensuring Public Safety & Health

There are many ways you can improve on the health of your constituents, including:

  • Make your city walkable: if you update infrastructure that makes riding bikes or walking to points of need and interest, more constituents will opt to walk and burn calories instead of running errands in their cars. 
  • Improve health inspection protocols: just as automation can improve building inspections, the health inspector can leverage mobile health inspection software to ensure health standards are met at all local residencies and businesses. 
  • Encourage Covid-19 testing and vaccinations: Even as Covid-19 lockdowns are rescinded and the world returns to normal, new variants and outbreaks will result in similar seasonal upticks in Covid-19 that we’ve seen in the past few years. Ensure your at-risk constituents are safe by encouraging vaccination clinics and testing centers to be registered in your community. 

To encourage consistent public safety, mitigation techniques include: 

  • Leverage report-a-concern software: complaint software allows constituents to report local issues to government entities. While constituents in emergency situations should always call 911, a non-crisis but concerning issue like a bad pothole, hazardous issue like floods and down branches, and concerns related to physical infrastructure can be reported to the relevant government department to address. 
  • Offer active shooter drill training at local schools and public buildings.
  • Have standard protocol for law enforcement regarding emergency shooting / terrorist attack scenarios. 

Elected Government Official Risk Management Strategy

As a leader in local government, you have risks to consider as a public facing individual in your community. Here are a few of the risks you need to keep in mind for maintaining a positive image and getting re-elected. 

Here are a few types of issues to consider in your own personal government official risk management strategy:

  • Losing reelection: the worst case scenario for an elected official is to lose in a reelection campaign. To ensure that constituents keep you around, make a clear effort to bring positive change to your community such as improvements to constituent-facing government tech, improving public spaces like parks, and encouraging local economic development
  • Negative press: obviously, if you’re in politics, certain media outlets are certainly going to criticize you regardless of performance. To mitigate the impact of negative press, make an effort to engage with constituents directly to talk about ongoing positive change, take negative criticism head-on and respond directly to bad press, and be sure to put out press releases as a local government regarding positive action taking place in your community
  • Losing employees under your purview: employee retention is a major challenge that can impact your particular department directly. If you’re an elected official and can’t maintain employees, it’s going to be challenging to accomplish your goals. Make an effort to find and keep positive talent by being a good boss that makes them feel important and wanted!

Local Government Risk Management - In Conclusion

Your local government clearly has a lot to think about. Be it a natural disaster, a cyber attack, a Covid outbreak, or an economic downturn, major risks loom in the future that need to be addressed before it’s too late.

The key takeaway here: be proactive instead of reactive. Leverage federal grants to update your antiquated infrastructure, hire and retain great government employees, and embrace government software to improve government workflows that will lead to more productivity towards mitigating major risks in your community and boost the local economy.

To learn more about how government software can help, schedule a consultation. 

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Public Sector Risk Mitigation FAQs

1. Government Risk Management vs Government Risk Mitigation: What’s the Difference?

Government risk management (also referred to as enterprise risk management) is the process of considering which threats pose the largest risk to your community. Government risk mitigation is the actual process of taking action to reduce the overall impact of a potential thread. 

2. How Does Government Technology Help With Risk Mitigation?

Government software wields the power to mitigate risks across the board. Cloud-based storage allows for online filing of paperwork and automatically backs up data. Technology known as robotic process automation reduces time spent on mindless administrative tasks across departments, improving efficiency and letting government workers focus on more important and meaningful work. All of these improved workflows make it easier for businesses to register, constituents to request documents, new (natural disaster proof) construction to get completed, and for the local economy to thrive. 

Above are just a few of the ways that municipal tech can mitigate risks like ransomware attacks, aging infrastructure, natural disasters, and high employee turnover. 

For more local government resources, read on: 


Tags: Government Efficiency, Cybersecurity, Digital Transformation, Blog, Civic Engagement