Council likely to talk hazard mitigation plan

Published 4:41 pm Monday, January 3, 2011

Contributing Editor

Washington’s City Council likely will discuss — and possibly adopt — Beaufort County’s Multi-jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan at the council’s meeting Monday.
The plan was on the council’s Dec. 13 agenda, but the council decided it needed more time to study the plan.
“Beaufort County has received a preliminary letter from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) stating that all jurisdictions should proceed with the adoption of the draft plan. A public hearing is required to adopt the plan,” reads a memorandum from John Rodman, the city’s planning and development director, to the mayor and council.
As expected, the plan 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 Hazard 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.
Councilman Doug Mercer, who serves as chairman of the county’s Planning Board, believes the plan “needs more specificity.”
“There are a number of errors in the document that need to be corrected,” said Mercer during a brief interview Monday.
“It is a very generalized approach to the concepts of how you mitigate natural hazards. There is very little in there in regard to man-made hazards,” Mercer said. “I would like to see a whole lot more specific information. … It doesn’t really tell you what you need to do to reduce the hazard.”
Without the plan being adopted and approved by FEMA, 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 in an interview in 2010.
The plan is two-fold, according to Pack.
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.
County Commissioner Al Klemm, a member of the Hazard Mitigation Advisory Committee, believes 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 in 2010.
Klemm noted the plan has a role in the federal government determining how much mitigation money the county and participating municipalities receive 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 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.
The plan will be implemented when adopted by the county and the participating jurisdictions.
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.