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