Plan helps obtain hazard-mitigation funds

Published 9:30 am Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Contributing Editor

A week before the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season began — the official season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 — a draft of Beaufort County’s Multi-jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan was unveiled.
As expected, it outlines responses, responsibilities and resources associated with dealing with natural disasters and minimizing their effects on the county and its municipalities.
John Pack, the county’s emergency-management coordinator, was tasked with overseeing development of the plan. He was assisted by the Mitigation Advisory Committee. The plan, prepared by Holland Consulting Planners of Wilmington, may be reviewed by visiting Beaufort County’s website at and clicking on the Multi-jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan listing on the left side of the Web page.
A public hearing on the proposed plan will be held to receive input from the public. The date, time and location of that hearing have yet to be determined, Pack said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has a copy of the draft plan.
Without the plan, the county and its participating municipalities would not be able to receive federal mitigation money in the wake of a disaster.
“We couldn’t even submit for that if we didn’t have this plan,” Pack said.
“The plan is two-fold,” Pack said.
First, it deals with the day-to-day efforts needed to prepare the county and its municipalities so their exposure to damage from a disaster is minimal, Pack noted. Second, the plan outlines procedures to follow during the recovery phase of a disaster.
“It’s a requirement that FEMA places upon everyone,” Pack said.
The draft plan is more concise and relevant than its predecessor, Pack said.
County Commissioner Al Klemm, a member of the Hazard Mitigation Committee, said the plan is one that’s needed for several reasons.
“I think it’s a very important plan. To me, it’s an emergency action plan,” Klemm said.
Klemm noted the plan has role in the federal government determining how much mitigation money the county and participating municipalities receives to deal with disasters. The better the plan, the more money that’s available, he said. Plans are scored on a points system, Klemm said.
“The more points you get, the better off you are,” Klemm said. “The more you do (in the plan), the better it (the money) gets.”
The plan will be implemented when adopted by the county and the participating jurisdictions.
Why a plan?
“Due to its geographic location, Beaufort County is especially susceptible to flooding, hurricanes, and nor’easters. The county is also vulnerable to tornadoes, thunderstorms, and wildfires. Additionally, while the frequency is lower and the damage not as severe, the county is at risk from severe winter storms, droughts, and some man-made hazards (largely chemicals and bulk fuel storage),” reads the plan.
The threats that hurricanes pose to the area have resulted in the City of Washington striving to keep an amount of money equal to at least one month’s revenues in reserve to spend on recovery efforts if necessary. While financial resources available to the county and its municipalities are a key part of hazard-mitigation efforts, the plan includes other components that are needed to help minimize the effects natural disasters likely will have on the county and its municipalities.
“We certainly cannot prevent natural events, like hurricanes and tornadoes. Yet the impacts of natural events — who and what gets hurt — are largely determined by what, where, and how we build and function. Thus, some impacts of natural hazards on our population and economic, social, and physical environment are, in the bigger picture, self-inflicted. As citizens and local government entities, we have not inherited perfectly planned and resilient communities. Due to this fact, we must assess current vulnerabilities resulting from past decisions relating to development design and location in an effort to reduce the harmful impacts of natural, and in some cases, man-made hazards,” reads the plan.
The county’s plan, to some degree, is a response to a change in federal policy regarding disasters.
“In the early 1990s, a new federal policy regarding disasters began to evolve. Rather than simply reacting with emergency response and recovery efforts when disasters struck communities, the federal government began to encourage communities to first assess their vulnerability to various disasters, and then take actions to reduce or eliminate potential risks. The logic behind this effort is simply that a disaster-resistant community can rebound from a natural disaster with less loss of property or human injury, at much lower cost, and more quickly than a community with higher vulnerability. Moreover, other costs associated with disasters, such as the time lost from productive activity by businesses and industries, are minimized in disaster-resistant communities,” notes the plan.
The plan addresses the need to prohibit or restrict building in areas prone to major flooding, high winds or other similar damaging elements of natural disaster, in part to minimize losses caused by repeated natural disasters.
Mitigation Objectives
• Ensure that all residents and business owners in Beaufort County are aware of the potential hazards associated with their environment, are provided adequate warning of potential disaster events and are afforded safe and efficient access to evacuation routes and shelters during disaster events.
• Improve efforts to provide uninterrupted emergency and critical infrastructure functions (electricity/water/sewer/transportation) and basic human services (food/water/medical needs) during and following disasters.
• Improve interagency communication and coordination in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.
• Manage future growth and regulate new construction and development in each participating jurisdiction through sustainable land-use principles and practices to mitigate natural and man-made hazards.
• Solicit public support for hazard mitigation and improve each participating jurisdiction’s capacity to achieve cost-effective hazard mitigation.
• Continue to mitigate losses to residential, commercial and institutional property through implementation of acquisition and retrofitting activities and effective code enforcement.
• Ensure that local officials and staff are well-trained regarding natural and man-made hazards and appropriate prevention, response, recovery and mitigation activities.
• Prioritize retrofitting of critical facilities deemed vulnerable to hazards based on vulnerability, utility and feasibility and actively pursue funding for defined retrofitting priorities.