Tal­bot OKs a plan to help deal with the men­ace of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By CON­NIE CON­NOLLY cconnolly@ches­pub.com

EAS­TON — The Tal­bot County Coun­cil has ap­proved a broad spec­trum blueprint de­signed to help county agen­cies pro­tect the pub­lic be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter weather-re­lated dis­as­ters.

Jim Bass, emer­gency man­age­ment co­or­di­na­tor for the Tal­bot County Depart­ment of Emer­gency Ser­vices, pre­sented the 2017 Tal­bot County Haz­ard Mit­i­ga­tion and Com­mu­nity Re­silience Plan to the coun­cil on Dec. 19.

The coun­cil ap­proved the plan, which al­ready had been “ap­proved pend­ing adop­tion” by both the Mary­land Emer­gency

Man­age­ment Agency and Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency.

The 304-page doc­u­ment is de­signed mainly to help “make ev­ery­body safer,” said Bass, the project co­or­di­na­tor. “It’s not eas­ily di­gestible. It’s a big, in-depth doc­u­ment with a lot of ideas, and it’s mainly geared to­wards de­ci­sion-mak­ers in the county.”

It re­places the county’s 2011 Haz­ard Mit­i­ga­tion Plan.

“We had an op­por­tu­nity to kick it up a notch” by in­clud­ing the con­cept of com­mu­nity re­silience, Bass said.

The first two sen­tences of the plan de­fine the terms haz­ard mit­ga­tion and com­mu­nity re­silience.

“Haz­ard mit­i­ga­tion is sus­tained ac­tion taken to re­duce or elim­i­nate the long-term risk to life and prop­erty from haz­ards. Re­silience is the ca­pac­ity of in­di­vid­u­als, com­mu­ni­ties, busi­nesses, in­sti­tu­tions, and gov­ern­ments to adapt to chang­ing con­di­tions and to pre­pare for, with­stand, and rapidly re­cover from dis­rup­tions to ev­ery­day life, such as haz­ard events,” the plan states.

“Re­silience en­ables com­mu­ni­ties to adapt to change so that they not only ‘bounce back’ from a dis­as­ter, but also ‘bounce for­ward’ to a safer state,” Bass said. “Emer­gency pre­pared­ness goes be­yond peo­ple hav­ing an emer­gency sup­ply kit.”

The 2017 plan iden­ti­fied eight “haz­ards as to hav­ing the great­est im­pact on Tal­bot County.”

Flood, win­ter storm, tor­nado, thun­der­storm, wild­fire, drought, high wind and coastal haz­ards, in­clud­ing coastal storms, storm surge, hur­ri­cane, trop­i­cal storm and nor’easters, were iden­ti­fied as those most likely to af­fect the county.

The plan “looked at haz­ards through the lens of com­mu­nity re­silience and the five pil­lars of ed­u­ca­tion, in­fra­struc­ture, en­vi­ron­ment, eco­nomic sta­bil­ity and pub­lic safety, health and wel­fare,” Bass said.

“We need all (of the pil­lars). If any (of them) crum­bles, the en­tire com­mu­nity is no longer a com­mu­nity,” Bass said. “We need all of them, and we need to in­vest in them equally to en­sure that we are pre­pared and that we’re tak­ing care of one another.”

One ex­am­ple of the prac­ti­cal im­pli­ca­tions of the plan’s at­ten­tion to the pil­lar of in­fra­struc­ture is the sug­gested re­place­ment of cul­verts in Evac­u­a­tion Zone 3 at Oak Creek Bridge on state Route 33, “which has a flood depth of 9.1 feet ac­cord­ing to Depth Grid Data. The County Cul­vert As­sess­ment in­di­cates that there are 20 ‘High Pri­or­ity’ cul­verts in need of re­pair and/or re­place­ment,” Sec­tion 5.5 states.

The plan has nearly 30 “re­silience and mit­i­ga­tion ac­tion items we want to make progress on over life­span of the plan which is five years,” Bass said. “At the end of the five-year re­view process, I hope to say we’ve ac­com­plished al­most ev­ery­thing that’s been flagged in the plan.”

The project be­gan 18 months ago and was funded by the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity through MEMA. Smith Plan­ning and De­sign of Cum­ber­land com­piled the work of the core plan­ning team and the Tal­bot County Com­mu­nity Re­siliency Stake­holder Com­mit­tee.

The com­mit­tee com­prised 16 pub­lic and pri­vate agen­cies: the Depart­ment of Emer­gency Ser­vices; East­ern Shore Land Con­ser­vancy; Shore Re­gional Health; the Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works; Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege; Tal­bot County Pub­lic Schools; Plan­ning and Zon­ing; Eas­ton Util­i­ties; Amer­i­can Mi­cro­grid; Mid-Shore Food Sys­tem Coali­tion; Tal­bot County Sher­iff’s Of­fice; Mary­land Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources; MEMA; Sea Grant Ex­ten­sion; MidShore River­keep­ers; and the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties of Eas­ton, Ox­ford, Queen Anne, St. Michaels and Trappe.

Bass in­vited to the stake­holder com­mit­tee those with ex­per­tise in more than one pil­lar, he said.

Although rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the agri­cul­ture and the fish­eries com­mu­ni­ties were not specif­i­cally asked to serve, “I think that we were pretty well able to cover those sorts of con­cerns with the rep­re­sen­ta­tion we have,” Bass said.

The Depart­ment of Emer­gency Ser­vices has a man­age­ment plan for the county that spells out pro­ce­dures for emer­gency per­son­nel. How­ever, the haz­ard mit­i­ga­tion and com­mu­nity re­silience plan in­volves more plan­ners across var­i­ous agen­cies “get­ting out of their si­los” and shar­ing in­for­ma­tion across sev­eral dis­ci­plines.

“We had quite a bit of mu­nic­i­pal in­volve­ment from the town man­agers and coun­cils. There are no spe­cific mit­i­ga­tion plans for mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, but (lead­ers) iden­ti­fied fo­cus ar­eas and con­cerns they want to make sure are ad­dressed,” Bass said.

“The ac­tion items ad­dress each of pil­lars in com­ing years,” Bass said. “A lot of projects iden­ti­fied mul­ti­ple pil­lars to ad­dress dif­fer­ent as­pects of our com­mu­nity.”

“We had pub­lic re­view dur­ing the 18-month plan­ning process, and we’re bet­ter for it,” Bass said.

“Tal­bot County has strong eco­nomic ties to the water and tourism and there­fore, must ad­dress flood­ing and other risks associated with liv­ing near the water. Mod­er­ate flood­ing in these ar­eas can dis­rupt the econ­omy in these key ar­eas, and cat­a­strophic flood­ing could per­ma­nently af­fect the eco­nomic char­ac­ter and over­all qual­ity of life in the county,” the plan’s ex­ec­u­tive sum­mar y states.

“In ad­di­tion to en­act­ing or­di­nances for devel­op­ment within flood­plains, Tal­bot County has been work­ing to ad­dress the phys­i­cal con­nec­tions of the com­mu­nity and the five pil­lars,” the plan states. “Ef­fec­tive haz­ard avoid­ance, mit­i­ga­tion, and re­silience ef­forts that ad­dress all five pil­lars en­ables Tal­bot County to thrive.”

“The way I look at it is, how are we go­ing to pro­tect our peo­ple and pro­tect our stuff?” Bass told the county coun­cil. “And how are we go­ing to fos­ter a sense of pre­pared­ness and the abil­ity to re­cover in our peo­ple, our com­mu­nity and make sure we’re all do­ing our part to keep each other safe.”

“I’m so ex­cited about this plan be­cause so many peo­ple put so much ef­fort into it, and I think that this is a re­ally, re­ally good roadmap for the fu­ture of Tal­bot County,” Bass said.

“It’s some­thing that I be­lieve in, and I hope that it will serve the county well for the next five years as well as into the fu­ture,” Bass said.

The en­tire 2017 Tal­bot County Haz­ard Mit­i­ga­tion and Com­mu­nity Re­silience Plan is avail­able on­line at www.tal­bot­des.org.

PHOTO BY CON­NIE CON­NOLLY

Jim Bass, emer­gency man­age­ment co­or­di­na­tor for the Tal­bot County Depart­ment of Emer­gency Ser­vices, pre­sented the 2017 Tal­bot County Haz­ard Mit­i­ga­tion and Com­mu­nity Re­silience Plan to the Tal­bot County Coun­cil on Dec. 19.

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