Updating plan should lessen disaster impact

GREENVILLE – Snow storms, floods, tornados, and terrorism – the list can go on and on when it comes to possible disasters. Just how far it goes will be up to the residents of Darke County and a committee of elected officials, business leaders, non-profit organizations, and governmental and non-governmental agencies. On Tuesday, the Darke County Office of Homeland Security joined with Mote & Associates and approximately 30 committee members to begin work on the county’s Five-Year Mitigation Plan Update.

According to Mike Henderson, of Mote & Associates, the Mitigation Plan is required to be eligible for disaster funding from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). Originally termed a disaster preparedness plan, the name of the plan has evolved the past 15-years to better represent what it is meant to do – reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of a disaster.

Over the next 5- to 6-months, the committee, with input from the public, will be looking at the current Mitigation Plan to determine if items can be deleted or if there are new areas of concern.

While natural disasters must be addressed, Henderson is welcoming all ideas. When the current plan was approved five-years ago, FEMA suggested Darke County take a more in-depth look at the possibility of a drought and the damaging effect it would have on the agricultural community. FEMA suggested the county strengthen its mitigation strategies in this area.

Chief Deputy Mark Whitaker of the Darke County Sheriff’s Office suggested the committee develop mitigation strategies for terrorism. With events such as Eldora Speedway races, the Darke County Fair and, most recently, the Queen of Hearts drawing in Ansonia getting bigger, he believes it is time for mitigation discussions in those areas. He pointed out there are no laws that require Eldora, the fair or any other event where a lot of people are gathered to hire security. In the days leading up to the final Queen of Hearts drawing, the village of Ansonia passed emergency legislation to temporarily prohibit box trucks and any vehicle deputies could not see inside from the parking in the area of the Whistle Stop in order to lessen possible issues.

Henderson agreed that is something that could be addressed in an updated Mitigation Plan.

The Mitigation Plan has been successful in the past in helping communities identify the need for tornado sirens, purchasing residential property in floodplains, or building safe rooms in public areas.

He encouraged the committee members to read the current plan available at www.darkecountyema.org before the next meeting, which is scheduled for Jan. 10, 10 a.m., at the Darke County Homeland Security Office. Additional meetings will be held the second Wednesday in February and March at the same time and location.

Council members, trustees and community members from across Darke County are welcome to attend future meetings to offer input. Henderson admits it is difficult to mitigate a problem if they don’t know a problem exists.

A draft of the updated Five-Year Mitigation Plan is expected to be distributed in April and public comment will be taken in May with a public hearing planned for either the second or third week in May. The plan will be submitted to the Ohio EMA by the end of June before it is finally submitted to FEMA. Henderson hopes to have the plan completed by the end of 2018 and submitted to local governments for approval. Local governments can opt-out of approving the plan but would not be eligible for disaster funds.

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