Hazard Mitigation Update
In Emergency Management, hazard mitigation is any action taken to reduce or eliminate the long-term risk to human life and property from natural hazards. In Maine, Hazard Mitigation Plans (HMP) are maintained at the state and county level. Both the state and county level HMPs rely heavily on municipal mitigation considerations and municipal hazard mitigation needs are specifically addressed in the county level plan. The current Cumberland County HMP received Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approval in June 2012.
Every five years, FEMA requires an update to HMPs. As such, the Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency (CCEMA), on behalf of its cities and towns, is responsible for the effort. Each municipality is required to participate in the process and to endorse the final product in order to gain FEMA approval of the updated plan. With the approval comes renewed eligibility for all municipalities to compete for valuable mitigation grant funding.
The 2017 HMP update process began in earnest in late summer 2015. A detailed review of the status of projects listed in the 2012 Plan is ongoing and any new mitigation projects municipalities have proposed are being incorporated into the 2017 HMP Update. CCEMA has been working with local EMA Directors and Public Works Directors to gather data for the plan. This data includes municipal records and historical supporting documentation such as photographs and newspaper articles. To date, all towns have met with CCEMA staff and most are actively participating.
The data collection effort is extremely important. It can greatly facilitate the completion of pre-disaster mitigation grant applications should municipalities decide to compete for grant funding, and it can provide important documentation to assist in the preparation of municipal capital improvement budgets. A summary of mitigation projects, either derived from or further refined, with this data collection initiative, will be included in the 2017 HMP Update.
Moving forward, CCEMA will continue collecting data on hazard events such as large rainstorms that produce flooding, and will address issues related to sea level rise and climate change. Public Works Departments are encouraged to continue using MEMA D-2 Damage “road tracker” forms to assist in tracking a “history of damages.” Tracking hazard damage for mitigation projects is an important factor in the grant application process but generally proves difficult and time consuming to research. Utilizing “road tracker” forms can eliminate this difficulty by readily providing much of the history of repetitive damages needed when applying for these mitigation grants.
As previously noted, completion of this effort requires “adoption by the local governing body” before final approval by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Therefore, the Cumberland County Commissioners, the Boards of Selectmen, and the Councilors of the 28 Incorporated Cities and Towns will be asked to adopt the 2017 Cumberland County Hazard Mitigation Plan in early 2017. Adoption acknowledges that natural hazards create a risk of harm to persons and damage to property and that implementing certain measures may reduce the risk of harm to persons or property resulting from these natural hazards.