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County holds public hearing on hazard mitigation plan

Members of the county’s committee to create a hazard mitigation plan met Friday for the first of two public hearings on the 2015 plan.

Bartow County Emergency Management Agency Director Paul Cuprowski called the process “slow and tedious.”

“It’s a very big plan. ... This is going to be a reference guide of what we can do in this county to make things better in the next disaster,” he said.

“The new one will probably mimic [the 2012 plan] a lot except for a lot of the recommendations ... that came out of the last one.”

For an hour, North Georgia Consulting Group’s Jason Heard went over the 140-page plan.

Bartow County and the municipalities outlined the vulnerabilities and possible hazards the county could face, including the most likely ones: severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, flooding, winter storms and hazardous materials situations.

“It really is just to give you a general idea of what the historical frequency is of these hazards,” Heard said.

In the past five years, Bartow County reported five tornadoes; in 10 years, eight; 20 years, 10; and 50 years, 22.

“It’s increased over time from 44 percent to 100 percent. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be 100 percent from now on,” Heard said.

Also included was more than four pages of “mitigation action” recommendations that includes everything from tarps and generators to communications systems and warning sirens upgrades.

“We identify these things in the mitigation plan so, if there is ever money available on a federal or state level, that’s what you go and reference,” Cuprowski said. “If there is grant money, for example, and we want to apply for grants after a disaster, then we can go to the hazardous mitigation plan and say, ‘We identified this already in our plan, and yes, it’s on our target list of improvements that we need to do.’”

Among the top priorities on the list: infrastructure support and life-saving measures.

“We always have to keep our water systems up. I think that’s obviously a priority, so you need power, electrical protection. In these days of terrorism, you need security, be it physical or technological. These are all things that are indicated in the plan,” Cuprowski said. “... To say what’s most important, life safety — you want to keep the power going, you want to keep your water going obviously and your roadways open. If you can do that, you can go far enough out to get the supplies and resources you need.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency requires the county and cities have the plan in place to be eligible to participate in certain programs. A FEMA grant pays for the plan’s creation, including Heard’s services.

“... We have an EMPG grant that we participate in. One of the qualifications is, the prerequisite is that we have to have an approved FEMA hazardous mitigation plan,” Cuprowski said. “This is an ongoing thing that we have to revisit, update it, amend it and then get it approved every five years.”

The plan is expected to be sent to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency this month for approval. It is not expected to be returned until February, at which time it will be adopted and forwarded to FEMA.

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