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July 6, 2013
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Summit County updating its hazard mitigation plan

Summit County’s emergency management director, Joel Cochran, is asking the public to help local governments identify the hazards of living in Summit County.

The plan is to cover everything from natural hazards like avalanches and wildfire to public health and infrastructure issues.

“These plans make a community focus on the hazards that can impact them,” Cochran said. Once the hazards are identified, the community can come up with actions to lessen the risk.

Summit County has never had a presidentially declared disaster. Cochran said he’d like to keep it that way — but it’s best for the community to be prepared should a disaster occur.

“We live in a beautiful place and we should enjoy that every day, but we should also be aware,” he said.

The public can learn about and contribute to a multi-hazard mitigation plan during an open house and workshop on Tuesday. The plan will address a comprehensive list of natural hazards ranging from wildfire to flooding, severe winter weather, avalanche and drought.

“I think bringing the public into a government process is always helpful,” Cochran said. “Having a greater collection of people looking at what you are doing makes your product better.”

The meeting can also be an educational experience, giving community members a chance to learn about the potential hazards around them.

“It’s a good opportunity to get the public out and engaged in these topics,” Cochran said.

The plan was first produced in 2008 and is being updated as required by FEMA by a Hazard Mitigation Planning Committee made up of representatives of the county and towns, state and federal agencies, fire protection districts, special districts and other local stakeholders.

“It brings a group of people together that work in the field,” Cochran said. “It’s really quite a mix of people.”

Local governments and agencies are required to adopt a FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plan to be eligible for certain federal disaster assistance and hazard mitigation funding programs.

The hazard mitigation plan facilitated a grant for a defensible space project in Keystone that involved cutting down trees that were dangerously close to homes, Cochran said. He anticipates more grant-funded opportunities arising from the updated version of the plan.

Besides learning about the plan’s purpose and benefits, the public will have the opportunity on Tuesday evening to hear the results of the county-wide risk assessment and discuss community concerns and priorities for reducing risk from natural disasters.

A documentation of hazardous events that have occurred in Summit County in the past also will be available.

“If people have a curiosity about what has happened here in the county, this is kind of the history book of all the hazards,” Cochran said.

The emergency manager said he’s interested in learning more about the likelihood of an earthquake occurring in Summit County during the event.

“We are going to more thoroughly examine earthquake risk,” he said. “There are a lot of faults in our state and very little monitoring, so we know little about it.”

Feedback from the open house will be incorporated into the draft plan, as appropriate.

The plan will be made available for public review and comment.

“These plans make a community focus on the hazards that can impact them,” Cochran said. Once the hazards are identified, the community can come up with actions to lessen the risk.


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The Summit Daily Updated Jul 8, 2013 10:03AM Published Jul 6, 2013 10:46PM Copyright 2013 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.