Thanks to the hard work of the planning committee, Upson County has a new Hazard Mitigation Plan in place. The document, which outlines plans for the county should any natural or man-made disasters occur, has to be updated every five years and the planning committee has been working since February to update the plan. The Hazard Mitigation Plan has been approved by GEMA (Georgia Emergency Management Association) and the Board of Commissioners and will now go to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Association) for final approval. The county should hear back from FEMA in about 45 days.
Upson EMA Director Martha Anne McCarty has worked hand in hand with consultant Katy Westbrook of Lux Mitigation and Planning Corporation and the planning committee to have everything in working order. She stated the plan that was in place was a good one, thanks to the hard work of former EMA Director Billy Mitcham. McCarty noted the plan is now in digital form and will become a living document that will be updated on a yearly basis so that in five years when it has to be revised again, it will be a seamless process. She went on to say just how important this plan is to the community and thanked everyone who worked on it.
“Without this plan in place and approved on the local, state and federal level, grants would be non-existent,” said McCarty. “We know how often grants affect so much of what we do. This is a very important document and we are glad we had such good input on it.”
A large portion of the plan is made up of mitigation strategies, which are things that can be done to lessen the blow if a disaster should occur in the area. Westbrook stated that nearly a quarter of the plan comes from the following strategies which are broken down into six sections: Prevention (31.7 percent); Property Protection (11 percent); Natural Resource Protection (2.4 percent); Structural Projects (9.8 percent); Emergency Services (23.2 percent) and Public Awareness (22 percent). She added that educating the public about what is available, how to protect themselves and how to be prepared is a very important component of the plan.
Other small changes were made to the plan for things such as natural disasters. The plan already had flooding, tornados, drought, severe winter weather and thunderstorms. Hurricane winds were changed to tropical cyclones to be more inclusive and earthquakes were added. Westbrook stated that FEMA only looks at natural disasters and does not consider technological or man-made hazards when distributing aid. However, since the document could be used as a supporting document for grant opportunities that may arise, transportation incidents (air, rail and highway), terrorism and dam failure were added to the list. The plan already listed hazardous material incident under the man-made hazard list.
Westbrook also stated the plan outlines what is considered critical infrastructure, meaning things that the county cannot do without. She stated this lists things such as water tanks, wastewater treatment facilities and how to keep them running in the event of a disaster.
McCarty stated Upson County received a grant to do the project, however there is still a 75-15-10 match for federal, local and state funds. Thanks to the individuals who worked on the planning committee they have been able to put a cost to the amount of volunteers and can use that to significantly reduce the percent of funds needed for a match to the grant for the county.
At the close of the presentation, Commissioner Steve Hudson made a motion to approve the Hazard Mitigation Plan, and a second came from Commissioner Ralph Ellington. The board unanimously approved the document and Commission Chairman Rusty Blackston thanked McCarty and the rest of the planning committee for all of their hard work.
Ashley Biles can be reached by calling 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @AshleyBiles1