Summit County unveils new draft of hazard mitigation plan, seeks public feedback
FRISCO — What are the biggest dangers to living in Summit County, and how do people work proactively to lower the risk?
Those are the questions being put to community members as officials once again ask for public feedback in finalizing the Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan update — a comprehensive document meant to guide public safety policy and outline hazard mitigation projects over the next five years.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency requires each county to update its plan every five years. After five months of development, including an online community survey and input from numerous stakeholders, the Summit County Office of Emergency Management unveiled a draft of the new plan Monday evening.
“It’s a lot of work, and there are a lot of moving parts,” county Emergency Management Director Brian Bovaird said. “The benefit that we have is that our existing plan is very comprehensive, and it gave us a really good base to go off of. This will give us a really good description of what hazards we face and our exposure to them.”
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The plan — a bulky 665 page document including separate annexes for the county’s towns and special districts — identifies and ranks potential hazards by severity and probably to happen, and provides insight on mitigation strategies for each. Unsurprisingly, the most significant hazards noted in the plan deal with wildfires, floods, avalanches and severe winter weather.
“It helps us immensely with our internal planning,” Summit Fire & EMS Chief Jeff Berino said. “What does the public perceive as a risk? What are they worried about? If they’re worried, we’re worried. It really helps us prioritize our internal strategic plans.”
Bovaird noted that there were also considerable efforts to better understand and develop the plan in regard to lesser thought about hazards, including reducing wildlife collisions with motorists and expanding policies surrounding invasive pest infestations.
“It’s a good example of capturing what’s been done in the broader community and bringing it into the plan,” Bovaird said. “People tend to think of catastrophic events like fires and flooding. But statewide, especially in Summit County, there’s been an increased attention to wildlife collisions with motorists. There are conversations about dangerous areas where people are getting injured, wildlife is getting injured, and their habitats are being harmed. What can we do to mitigate that issue? …
“We know ecologically pine beetle is one of several species that can wipe out forested areas. But we’ve also started to see other kinds of infestations, such as the zebra mussels up in Green Mountain Reservoir. That was a big update, expanding that category and looking at what potential there is for infestations for all the different species. … If you dig into the plan, certainly wildfire and flooding and avalanches affect the most people, and those are our biggest exposures. But this plan does go pretty deep into other topics.”
In addition to addressing new potential risks, mitigation plans for each hazard identified by the county now include special sections on how future effects of climate change could create additional impacts.
In regards to actual mitigation efforts, the plan picks up right where the last one left off with a summary of mitigation work left uncompleted from the previous plan. The document also includes a mitigation action matrix, listing and prioritizing planned mitigation actions over the next five years.
While many are obvious, such as identifying and performing wildfire fuel reduction projects in critical areas, other projects may be lower profile, such as expanding the reach of the Summit County Alert Public Warning system or replacing culverts to prevent flooding.
As the plan nears completion, officials are hoping to collect more public input before moving forward with adoption. Community members can access the draft plan on the emergency management page of the county’s website, along with another online survey to provide comments or suggestions through March 3. Once the survey closes, officials will submit a final draft with any changes to the state and federal emergency management agencies for approval. Bovaird noted that the county, towns and other stakeholders could adopt the plan sometime this spring.
“The biggest thing that we’re looking for is general comments on the plan: Does this hit all the marks and does this accurately reflect our community profile?” Bovaird said. “The second piece is providing another opportunity for community members to give input on missing content. Is there something that is a real hazard in the community that we didn’t identify?”
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