Ahoskie approves disaster readiness plan

Published 7:31 am Tuesday, July 21, 2015

AHOSKIE – The idea is to be prepared and work together.

While the Roanoke-Chowan area has been spared the wrath of major Atlantic hurricanes for the past several years, a regional preparedness plan that the Federal Emergency Management Act (FEMA) several years ago asked counties and municipalities in the region to adopt demonstrates plans on how funds may be best spent during natural disasters.

The Albemarle Regional Hazardous Mitigation Plan was designed for the counties of Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hertford, Perquimans and Pasquotank and includes the towns of Ahoskie, Cofield, Como, Duck, Edenton, ElizabethCity, Gatesville, Harrellsville, Hertford, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, Manteo, Murfreesboro, Nags Head, Southern Shores, Winfall and Winton.

As part of a regional effort to reduce vulnerability to natural disasters, the Town of Ahoskie requested public feedback on natural disaster risk and preparedness in order to assist the efforts of the counties and municipalities in combining respective local natural hazard mitigation plans into one regional plan.

A mitigation plan identifies and assesses a community’s natural hazard risks, and determines how to best minimize or manage those risks.

At their regular monthly meeting on July 13, an overview of the plan was given to the Ahoskie Town Council during the public hearing to gauge feedback before the plan might be adopted by the town.

“FEMA directed (counties and municipalities) form these plans in order to be eligible to draw funds during disasters, such as disaster recovery, debris removal, and things like that,” explained Town Manager Tony Hammond.

Ahoskie Fire Chief Ken Dilday, who has been the town representative for the drafting of the plan, explained that it will protect life and property by reducing the potential for future damages and economic losses that result from natural hazards;  allow the participating communities to qualify for pre- and post-disaster grant funding; speed recovery and redevelopment following disaster events; demonstrate a firm local commitment to hazard mitigation principles; and, comply with Federal requirements.

“This plan was provided by a grant several years ago, kicking off in Currituck back in 2014 and we had two public advisory meetings both in October 2014 and January 2015,” Dilday explained. “The draft plan was approved by FEMA on May 12 of this year and the local adoption of the plan will complete the process and that’s what we’re doing here tonight.”

Dilday went on to say the plan helps reduce the risk of loss of human life and property, and defines the role of local government in such a plan.

“The primary responsibility is to protect the health and safety and welfare of its citizens and help reduce the risk by creating safer communities,” Dilday said. “Everybody worked together in the planning process to develop a plan based on their risk to similar hazards thus saving time and resources to make the plan easier.”

Dilday said local counties and municipalities would still control their own disaster plans they have in place.

“A whole lot of hazards were addressed, and a lot of them won’t affect us,” the Chief stated, “(things like) wildfires, Nor’easters, winter storms, volcanoes, earthquakes, and rip currents.  All of them won’t affect us. The key objective is prevention, positive protection, natural resources protection, and public education.”

Dilday said once adopted the plan would be legal for the town and a resolution would have to be sent to North Carolina Emergency Management who would then forward it to FEMA; who would then approve it and it would return first to state Emergency Management before returning to the town.

“You will have to update it every five years starting with May of this year,” the Chief cautioned. “In a nutshell, basically this would cover stuff like what happened behind the hospital (the flooding on Lakeview Drive and the rest of that neighborhood) and gives us the authority to mitigate with FEMA.”

Donald Kirkland, a citizen who attended the public hearing, asked if the town would retain its independent authority to act on the plan or negotiate through the county.  Dilday answered that local authority would be maintained.

“We don’t lose any local control,” the Chief replied.

With no further comment from the public, Mayor Brien Lassiter closed the hearing and with no discussion from the Council, Councilwoman Elaine Myers made a motion the town adopt the Plan and the Resolution that accompanied it; Councilman Rev. C. David Stackhouse seconded the motion.

The plan and resolution was approved by Council unanimously.