County adopts mitigation document

Published 3:41 pm Sunday, August 9, 2015

WINTON – Hertford County has become the latest of the eight northeastern regional counties to approve the Albemarle Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan when the county’s Board of Commissioners gave it their stamp of approval at their monthly meeting on Monday.

The document is a regional preparedness plan that the Federal Emergency Management Act (FEMA) several years ago asked counties and municipalities in the region to adopt. It demonstrates scenarios 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 also includes the towns of Ahoskie, Cofield, Como, Duck, Edenton, Elizabeth City, 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, Hertford County 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.

“What we had before use to be a multijurisdictional plan within our county,” explained Hertford County Emergency Management Director Chris Smith. “The benefit to regionalizing this plan is that – number one, it is grant-funded, whereas before we had to bear all the cost of the other plan; and secondly, it puts us a little bit higher on the list to receive any mitigation funding because we have this regional plan.”

Smith said several townships jurisdictions have also come on board with the plan.  The towns of Ahoskie and Winton attended the planning meetings in Currituck in 2014, while Smith acted as proxy for the other townships in Hertford County.

“We all work together to develop mitigation strategies based our similar hazards,” said Smith. “We’re more known for hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods in this area; but we can’t say we couldn’t be affected by some of the other (disasters).

“Mitigation means it becomes less impartial, hostile, severe, or painful,” he explained.

Smith reminded the Board of how in the Ahoskie Creek area behind Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital all those homes were bought out after Hurricane Floyd in 1999, and no one is allowed to build a residence there ever again.

“Mitigating means you won’t have the same incidents recurring,” Smith said.

The plan says it’s the local government’s responsibility to take care of its citizens in the result of a natural disaster and that’s why these measures are adopted.

“It’s an investment to your community,” the EMS director said. “Small, rural counties need to partner with one another because we don’t always have all the resources we need at one time.”

Smith said no local control is lost or compromised by the plan in the event of a disaster; and EMS directors in the areas affected do all they can to educate their populations on these actions.

Once the plan is adopted by the counties or municipalities, it goes back to North Carolina Emergency Management who will then forward it on to FEMA; after which the plan can be implemented for the next five years.

“We really don’t realize how important these things are until a catastrophe occurs and then you need shared resources from other areas,” said Commission chairman Bill Mitchell.

Commissioner Curtis Freeman said the plan gives Hertford County options.

“This opens so many more doors for us in case something happens,” Freeman said. “We’ve received assistance from other areas when we’ve had flooding, but we’ve had to jump through hoops, make calls and send e-mails.  Now with this, all Chris has to do is make a call and help is here.  So it really helps and protects HertfordCounty citizens.”

County Manager Loria Williams asked what recommended processes need to be taken in order to mitigate and whether the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) indentifies those gaps and concerns.

“There is a sub-group that meets with the major regional group,” answered Smith. “If Harrellsville had no one to send and they had specific issues they needed to address then I as proxy would take that back to the regional group and together we would formulate a strategy.  In the end we don’t lose anything.”

Smith also addressed any non-participant in the plan and said they would not receive any resources; but he expected all the municipalities in Hertford County to adopt the plan.

After adjourning the public hearing, the Commissioners then made a motion to approve the plan and it passed without objection.

In other business, the county’s Cooperative Extension Service announced to the Board their Farm-to-Table Community Picnic, which will be held in the courtyard at Roanoke-ChowanCommunity College on Aug. 13, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.  Attendees will have a chance to learn about the Migrant Seasonal Farmworkers Outreach Program and other services offered by the Extension service.

“This is collaboration between Cooperative Extension and Roanoke-Chowan Community Health Center for their National Health Center Week,” said county Extension Director Stephanie Parker-Helmkamp. “It’s an event for us to appreciate our farming heritage and bring more awareness to the community about the importance of farming.”

Parker-Helmkamp said local farm workers are also invited to the picnic because Aug. 13 is also Farm Worker Appreciation Day. Anyone wishing to register needs to call Erin Storie at RCCHC, 252-209-0237, Ext. 7129.

“It’s a free event, open to the public and as of Friday we had 70 people registered, and our goal is 100,” she said. “There’s still time to pre-register.”