By Tim Linscott
Staying one step ahead of disasters is the goal of hazard mitigation and community members from Chase, Dundy and Perkins counties are coming together to plan and prepare for the worst.
Perkins County Emergency Management Coordinator Jim Brueggeman recently helped conduct a meeting to organize a risk assessment list for the region.
Severe winter storms, tornados, floods, drought, high winds, hail, wildfires and extreme heat are some examples of the events being planned for by the three county planning team.
The recent risk assessment session was held in Grant to size up the probability of future occurrences, the vulnerability of the population and property, the impact on critical facilities and the economy.
Some of the newer risks that will be prepared for by the group will be chemical spills during transport and at fixed sites and major transportation issues and animal disease.
Disasters like urban fires, dam failure, civil disorder/riots, earthquakes and landslides will not be emphasized in the hazard mitigation plan.
A risk assessment just for Perkins County has also been recently done.
“We went through and looked at which of these we would address and the impacts on different things like property and the economy,” Brueggeman said.
The three county mitigating plan committee is made up of emergency managers, deputy emergency managers and community stakeholders (people with a direct and indirect interest in the plan).
Now that the assessment has been done on what to key on for emergencies, Brueggeman said the next step is to have the public get involved.
“At this stage of the process, we will be reaching out to people to complete surveys in the future to look into this further,” Brueggeman said.
Direct participation in the hazard mitigation plan will come from villages and cities, schools and indirect participation from stakeholders, such as the chamber of commerce and major businesses.
The surveys and information from community stakeholders will all be included in the hazard mitigation plan, which will then make funding available from state and federal sources for pre-hazard planning and projects to mitigate those hazards before they strike.
JEO Consulting has been working with the hazard mitigation committee on this process. JEO Consulting has seen the state hazard mitigation plan and worked with local planners on finding what would be most applicable in the region.
“We looked at everything identified in the state hazard mitigation plan and we, as a planning team, looked at those and decided what was relevant to our area,” Brueggeman said. “We would plan for those hazards so it gets written into the tri-county plan. Then those counties are eligible to do hazard mitigation projects that are identified in the plan.”
Some of those projects could include sirens for communities, tornado shelters/safe rooms, generators for critical facilities, hardening of the infrastructure that could be affected by a disaster or a wash station for use after a chemical spill.
JEO is sending out surveys soon to the direct and indirect stakeholders and the community at large is encouraged to log on to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/risk-perception-survey and take a public involvement survey to offer insights and suggestions on the topic.
“This is something FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) wants to see is public input,” Brueggeman said. “Now this is something they want to see in the plan, so we are inviting people to be involved.”