Disaster Mitigation Plan for River Falls, WI
For my final project in my Mitigation and Preparedness Issues for Emergency Management class, I had to propose a hazard mitigation plan for my community… I got a perfect score on mine 🙂
Disaster response and recovery cost the state of Wisconsin millions of dollars each year. By utilizing hazard mitigation activities which would help to lessen the impact that these hazards have and thereby reduce costs. Hazard mitigation would also have a positive impact on the community as a whole; allowing the community to be better prepared to respond and recover in the face of a disaster. The purpose of this plan is to identify Wisconsin’s major hazards, complete a risk assessment and vulnerability of area for the potential for each type of hazard, and ultimately recommend any actions deemed necessary to mitigate the occurrences of such hazards (Wisconsin Emergency Management, October 2011).
The Hazard Mitigation plan which follows has been created in order to serve as a foundation for the City of River Falls to follow in order to minimize any impact that potential hazards may have on the community, environment or economy. The plan will also assist in enhancing the public’s hazard mitigation education about preparedness and resilience and will serve to expand the public’s awareness of natural and man-made hazards (Wisconsin Emergency Management, October 2011).
In order to encourage the continued use of the hazard mitigation plan and subsequent implementation of said plan, support will be coordinated amongst federal, state and local authorities as well as non-governmental agencies in regards to enacting hazard mitigation activities in order to improve disaster resistance of the buildings, structures and infrastructure through renovation, expansion, or construction (Wisconsin Emergency Management, October 2011).
The City of River Falls acknowledges that natural and man-made hazards can be a major threat to society, endangering both people and property and with this in mind, will take steps to mitigate the possibilities of such hazards by adopting an all hazards mitigation plan as is required by the federal government in order to secure future funding for any mitigation projects (Holst, Jeffrey A. & Pierce County Board of Supervisors, May 28, 2013).
Methodology of Analysis
While the Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) has determined that not all hazards included in this plan will affect the area, hazards are listed by probability of occurrence within the area and that have the greatest potential for mitigation. In order to effectively do this, the WEM has set up a qualitative system to rank each hazard by both its probability as well as its mitigation potential (Wisconsin Emergency Management, October 2011). Through the utilization of previous years’ records and maps, the WEM can also determine the number of occurrences that each hazard had in the past and use this information to assess the risk of future occurrences.
In determining the potential for disaster when designing new structures, the WEM employs datasets from the Geographical Systems Lab. The University of Wisconsin in River Falls is home to a Geographical Systems Lab which oversees and monitors geological data which can assist scientists in understanding the changes in the local geographic space and make better decisions for the best locations for buildings and other constructions (University of Wisconsin River Falls,2015).
Another methodology used to determine the potential for disaster is the usage of the HAZUS MH 3.0 software. This software was developed by FEMA and is used along with GIS to determine the risk for potential losses from floods, as well as hurricanes and earthquakes. The losses that are calculated by Hazus consist not only physical damage, but economic loss and the impact on society that these disasters can have (FEMA, 2015).
The third method of analysis used in this plan is local plan integration. To accomplish this process, each sector within the community must take a critical look at the existing plans and integrate hazard mitigation principles into the planning efforts that are already in use. This integration allows for the construction of a more resilient and safer community in which coordination between agencies becomes just as important as the allocation of resources (FEMA, 2015).
Types and Descriptions of Hazards
The types of natural hazards that residents of the River Falls community are susceptible to differ depending on the time of year. In the spring time, there is the danger of severe thunderstorms which may bring heavy rain fall, high winds, lightning, flash floods, and hail, as well as a slight risk of tornadoes. At this time of year, there may also be the occasional heavy, wet snow storm. Should the preceding winter have been dry, however, the danger of fire and drought due to the lack of precipitation exists. In the summer and fall months, there is more of a risk of wildfires, extreme high temperatures, drought, tornadoes, and straight-line winds. The winter months bring the potential for: blizzards, ice storms and extreme low temperatures. Incorporated in with blizzards are heavy snow and high winds which make any type of travel treacherous. There is little to no risk of hurricanes or volcanos and a very slight risk of earthquakes in the area (World Media Group, LLC. (2015).
Because of the prevalence of deer in Wisconsin, the number of bites to humans from deer ticks has grown almost exponentially. In recent years, the danger of an outbreak of Lyme Disease has also grown at an alarming rate. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has determined that the occurrence of Lyme disease is most commonly found in the northeast and upper Midwest areas of the United States and is the fifth most common Nationally Notifiable disease (CDC, 2015).
Besides natural disasters, there also exists the potential for technological disaster. This type of disaster can potentially affect everything from computers in residents’ homes and businesses to radiation leaks or other radiological accidents from the Prairie Island Nuclear Plant in Red Wing, MN (Xcel Energy, 2015).
In order to better manage the effects that natural and man-made hazards can have on a community, emergency managers must have a clear understanding of the best tools, strategies and resources available to assist in disaster response. Having the knowledge of where potential hazards may occur can alleviate any challenges which may develop (Teusch, 2010).
The use of technology in disaster preparedness is relatively new and has been found to be extremely effective in sharing knowledge, analyzing situations and improving coadjuvancy between agencies. Emergency responders rely on this information to help reduce loss of life and property as well as to assist in overcoming any barriers which may occur due to language differences, different cultures, geographical areas or damaged infrastructure (Teusch, 2010).
Hazard Mitigation Strategies
Hazard mitigation can be defined as the actions taken to lessen the impact that disasters have on life and/or property. State and local governments use hazard mitigation planning in order to determine which natural/man-made hazards might impact them and establish protocols to minimize losses, and ultimately provide a way to implement this plan while utilizing available resources. This planning is the key to halting the cycle of damage-reconstruction-damage (FEMA, 2015).
Town hall meetings are a necessary part of a mitigation strategy. During these sessions, determinations can be made about how much money is needed to implement the different parts of the strategy as well as how each part will be funded. These meetings can also help to develop plans of implementation by reviewing how well the various parts of the plan have worked in the past and recommending specific changes that could be made so that it works better during future events (FEMA, 2003).
Educating the population (example) National Weather Service offers free classes for citizens to become certified as an NWS Skywarn Storm Spotter. The class is open to all types of “students” – citizens, ham radio operators, police, fire EMS, medical staff, emergency managers and helps people recognize dangerous weather (National Weather Service, 2015).
Other forms of hazard mitigation strategies:
- Pretreat roadways before winter storms, snow plows
- Shelters, having predetermined transportation/escape routes
- Stockpiling of needed resources such as salt, sand, emergency supplies, etc.
By reviewing historical data, emergency managers can evaluate past events and use the data to predict future weather trends. The resulting hazard event profile will strive to answer the questions:
- How frequently does each particular disaster occur?
- What areas are most likely to be affected?
- What is the potential loss/damage from the hazard?
Using the preceding hazard profile, emergency managers will identify which hazards cause the most disasters, assess the severity of these events and determine the elements that contributed to the severity of the disaster, ultimately making recommendations for the implementation of mitigation and other emergency management procedures (2014 New York State Hazard Mitigation Plan, 2014).
2014 New York State Hazard Mitigation Plan. (2014). Hazard Identification. Retrieved from http://www.dhses.ny.gov/oem/mitigation/documents/2014-shmp/Section-3-0-3-2-HazardProfile-Risk-Assessment.pdf
CDC. (2015). Lyme Disease. Data and Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/stats/
Donovan, Megan. Gutter, Michael., Radunovich, Heidi., & Smith, Suzanna. (2015). Impacts of technological disasters. University of Florida IFAS Extension. Retrieved from https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy1230
Esri. (n.d.). Better decision making. “What is GIS?”. Retrieved from http://www.esri.com/what-is-gis
FEMA. (2003). Bringing the plan to life. Implementing the hazard mitigation plan. Retrieved from http://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/20130726-1521-20490-9008/fema_386_4.pdf
FEMA. (2015). Hazard Mitigation Planning. Retrieved from https://www.fema.gov/hazard-mitigation-planning
FEMA. (2015). Hazus. Hazus-MH Software. Retrieved from http://www.fema.gov/hazus
FEMA (2015). Plan Integration. Retrieved from https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/108893
Holst, Jeffrey A. & Pierce County Board of Supervisors. (May 28, 2013). Resolution No. 13-04 “Adopting the Pierce county all hazards mitigation plan”. Retrieved from http://www.co.pierce.wi.us/Ordinances_Resolutions/Ord_Res%202013/res_13-04.pdf
Teusch, Kris. (August 4, 2010). Emergency Management. “Effective Disaster Management Strategies in the 21st Century”. Retrieved from http://www.emergencymgmt.com/disaster/Effective-Disaster-Management-Strategies.html
National Weather Service. (2015). Skywarn. “What is SKYWARN®?”. Retrieved from http://www.nws.noaa.gov/skywarn/
University of Wisconsin River Falls. (2015). GIS. GIS lab. Retrieved from https://www.uwrf.edu/GEOG/GIS/GISLab.cfm
Wisconsin Emergency Management. (October, 2011). Department of Military Affairs. State Hazard Mitigation Plan. pp 39. Retrieved from http://emergencymanagement.wi.gov/mitigation/docs/2011%20State%20of%20Wisconsin%20Hazard%20Mitigation%20Plan.pdf
World Media Group, LLC. (2015). River Falls, WI. USA.com. Retrieved from http://www.usa.com/river-falls-wi.htm
Xcel Energy Inc. (2015). Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant. Retrieved from http://www.xcelenergy.com/Energy_Portfolio/Electricity/Prairie_Island_Nuclear_Generating_Plant