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Summit County, towns ask for community feedback on Hazard Mitigation Plan

Summit County Emergency Management Director Brian Bovaird addresses officials at the emergency operations center in Frisco during a full-scale emergency exercise May 31, 2019.
Sawyer D’Argonne / sdargonne@summitdaily.com

FRISCO — Summit County and its towns are asking residents to provide their input as officials work to update the Summit County Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan.

The plan, a hulking 600-page comprehensive guide, outlines the county’s biggest potential hazards along with plans for work that could be done to mitigate those hazards. Aside from countywide threats, the plan also contains annexes for each of the individual municipalities in the county, along with special districts.

“It basically does a good job capturing the demographics and all the hazards present and our vulnerability to those hazards,” said Brian Bovaird, the county’s director of emergency management. “The next big part of it is actually ranking our hazards and identifying mitigation actions that the county or towns could take. In the world of emergency management, mitigation is simply any actions that you can take before a disaster happens that will minimize the impacts of that disaster.”

The county is required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to update the plan every five years for a number of reasons, including to stay eligible for federal emergency management grants. Bovaird said the county relies in part on federal programs such as the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and the Post Disaster Mitigation Program for funding initiatives, including a recent $50,000 grant awarded to help update the plan — a heavy majority of the price tag.

But more importantly, a lot can change in a five-year period. Bovaird said the county’s three biggest hazards, determined by potential impact and exposure, include wildfires, severe winter weather and flooding. But officials are hopeful the plan update also can help to address some of the new hazards that have presented themselves over the past couple of years.

“With the update, we can look back over the past five years to see what’s changed,” Bovaird said. “One of the big changes is population. We’ll evaluate how the county has grown, and specifically how that has changed our vulnerability and exposures to all these hazards. But there’s a couple new hazards that we want to analyze, as well.”

Among increasing threats facing Summit County, Bovaird noted invasive species, avalanches and wildlife.

“The last plan was heavy on beetle kill, because that was the prevalent thing,” Bovaird said. “Now that we’re evolving in that cycle, there are dozens of other types of species we’re concerned about. We’re trying to look forward to determine what other types of invasive species are coming around the corner, and what we can do to minimize that. Another big one, after last winter, is that we’re looking at avalanches a little differently. Before, they were kind of an isolated hazard … but last year, we had avalanches everywhere. It’s an indication of an evolving hazard.”

Bovaird said the new plan also would detail new wildlife risks, primarily in regard to trying to mitigate traffic collisions with wildlife, and would take a deep dive into the potential effects of climate change in the future.

“The final part, other than the updates, is that we will be including analysis on climate change and how that will affect all the different hazards moving forward over the course of the next fives years,” Bovaird said.

The update also will address mitigation plans, not only in regard to physical efforts such as fuels reduction projects or installing larger culverts to prevent flooding, but also by digging through town and county codes to see whether there’s any regulations worth augmenting or strengthening.

While officials and stakeholders are working diligently to make sure all of the county’s potential hazards are properly addressed, they’re also urging members of the public to share their concerns and suggestions. Community members are being encouraged to fill out a short, online survey to help officials gain a better perspective on anything people in the area are concerned about. The survey can be found on the emergency management page of the county’s website. Additionally, Bovaird said the county will be holding a community meeting on the plan sometime in late December or early January.

“We don’t want to assume we know everything,” Bovaird said. “There’s a theory in emergency management that community members are the true first responders. They’re the ones affected immediately and dealing with the impacts right away. With that in mind, we think engaging the public and having them provide input for this plan could go a long way toward getting people to think about these things.”


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