Archive for Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mitigation plan earns approval

May 29, 2008

The Eudora City Council approved Eudora's disaster mitigation plan Tuesday.

Douglas County Emergency Management received grant funding to help all Douglas County cities compile the plan, and Eudora's was first of all eligible cities to be completed. The city got a leg up because Eudora USD 491 applied for FEMA grant funds for the construction of a storm shelter within the new elementary school.

"It basically is a document that says, 'If there is a disaster in Eudora, how are we going to recover,'" City Administrator Cheryl Beatty said. "It's a plan that identifies the hazards, the topography, the climate, the current economic demographics of the city and the inventories our utility systems to tell us what level we're trying to get back to."

Douglas County Emergency Management staff wrote the plan in 30 days during March. It outlines the main natural threats, which are floods and tornados, and how the city will deal with such hazards.

"It is a series of 'if-thens,' but I've always been big on getting these plans done," Beatty said. "In Greensburg, the day after the disaster, they were arguing over who was going to do what rather than taking action to do something. In this case, we've identified who is doing what and how we're going to move forward so that once the disaster happens you can react more quickly."

Beatty said the plan would be particularly helpful to someone not from Eudora who was coming to provide help.

"This is not only for the city of Eudora but for outside agencies to be able to partner with us quicker once they hit the steps of Eudora," she said.

The plan also identifies offsite locations where records such as maps, inventory list, payroll and other documents of record are kept

Beatty said the city had been working on the plan for three years but did not have the staff to dedicate to the project. But the grant money from FEMA allowed two DCEM staff members to dedicate all of their time to the project.

"As a result of Greensburg and Hurricane Katrina, there was just more of an emphasis on planning so that there were dollars freed up," Beatty said. "Larger cities probably already have most of this stuff set up. But with smaller cities, the problem is that they never have enough staff available to create a written plan. And now FEMA has finally woken up to the reality that small cities would never get to this level if they don't help us."

The plan also will help the budgeting process by providing the likelihood and severity of natural disasters other than just floods and tornados. For instance, disasters such as droughts are highly likely, yet the magnitude of a drought would be limited.

"It's a wakeup call to a lot of people so that when we start our annual budgets and planning we would have an idea what we should plan for," Beatty said.

The plan will be reviewed yearly and updated every five years.

Beatty hopes to meet with the Downtown Eudora Business Association and the Chamber of Commerce to discuss mitigation plans for businesses throughout the city.

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