OTTUMWA — If anyone can get behind the saying “expect the unexpected” it would have to be the county supervisors and Wapello County Emergency Management Coordinator Tim Richmond.
Thursday’s board of supervisors meeting focused on how the Hazard Mitigation Planning Survey can help residents prepare for events including floods, storms, tornadoes, etc.
Hazard mitigation by definition “is the effort to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of natural disasters.”
Richmond said he distributes the surveys to county supervisors and the public every five years.
“The plan is to be updated every five years and submitted to FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] for certification,” he said.
Richmond said it’s a process that requires careful planning. As it takes grant money to be able to prepare for mitigation planning and create the surveys, then distribute them to people.
“It takes a lot of leg work and a lot of activity just to plan,” he said. “We have a discussion with Regional Planning about what we have to do that, is there a better way and indeed there is. The idea was created to not apply for the hazard mitigation planning grant dollars [but] to just do the work.”
Richmond said in the near future the survey will not be done every five years, but every year.
“Keeping it current we feel that will serve us better,” he said, “The proposal is we give you a set of survey questions every year to keep this information flowing, to keep a constant conversation about what type of hazard mitigation activities we want to look into, invest and pursue.”
Richmond asked county supervisors to fill out the survey and return their completed ones to him in two weeks. He believes having the supervisors answer these questions can help the county in different ways.
“We kind of lean on you for your expertise,” he said, engineer included about the incorporated areas that you may also have some knowledge or ideas on things that impact our municipality’s image, too. Really you’re the overall umbrella of empirical knowledge.”
The survey isn’t about preparing for emergencies, it is also about bringing in a broad scope of what needs to change in the city and county.
“Sometimes we are not all that good in collecting data about certain things,” Richmond said, “and your knowledge and experiences our invaluable and oftentimes can’t be collected with a database or survey, but you certainly know from years of living in the county what kinds of things create issues for us and at the end of the day cost us money. For every dollar that we spend on hazard mitigation project, we save four dollars in recovery costs.”
Richmond said after the data is collected it will be assembled and published into a report and those on the Wapello County Emergency Management team talk about a potential mitigation project.
County Supervisor Jerry Parker agreed with Richmond’s proposal. “We also think that doing it this way with Regional Planning is going to help us expedite the process [of planning for hazard mitigations and a potential mitigation project],” Parker said.