Richmond County government, City of Rockingham, City of Hamlet, Town of Hoffman, Town of Ellerbe and the Town of Norman are better prepared for disasters with the recent approval of their local hazard mitigation plan, which is a long-term strategy to reduce the community’s vulnerability to natural disasters, according to emergency management officials.
The plan identifies hazards and potential hazards in Richmond County government, the cities of Rockingham and Hamlet, and towns of Hoffman, Ellerbe and Norman, and it creates a framework to help community officials make decisions that may ultimately protect lives and property.
The plan also outlines a strategy for implementing mitigation projects in the municipalities throughout Richmond County. Through projects such as public education, properly maintaining the public drainage system, requiring the installation of underground utilities in new developments and enforcing North Carolina state building codes, Richmond County government and the municipalities are taking proactive steps to lessen the impact of future disasters and the costly expenses associated with them, county officials said.
History shows that the physical, financial and emotional losses caused by disasters can be reduced significantly through hazard mitigation planning, officials said. The planning process encourages communities to integrate mitigation with day-to-day decision making regarding land-use planning, floodplain management, site design and other activities.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reviews and approves state, tribal and local hazard mitigation plans, which are required as a condition for states and communities to receive certain types of disaster assistance, including funding for mitigation projects. State mitigation plans must be approved every three years, and local and tribal mitigation plans must be approved at least once every five years.
“Being informed and prepared are two important things every family needs to be when we think of disasters,” said Donna Wright, director of Emergency Management in Richmond County.
“Being informed means several things such as understanding the information provided by the National Weather Service. This means understanding what a watch is as well as what a warning means,” Wright said.
“Part of being informed means having a weather alert radio in your home. This will allow you to keep up to date with the change in weather or other emergencies. In today’s app driven world, there are hundreds of apps available for alerting you for weather. Knowing what your home is vulnerable to is also an excellent example of being informed. For example, is your home located in an area prone to flooding is important in preparing for emergencies,” she said.
According to Wright, the second area that is important for residents to do is be prepared. After people arm themselves with the information, families should make a plan.
During a disaster, your family may become separated; have a family member or friend designated who lives in another area that everyone knows to call and report to so everyone knows you are OK and where you are located, Wright advised.
If you must evacuate, remember to keep important documents with you such as deeds, birth certificates and insurance documents. Build a family preparedness kit that will help families be self sustaining for a minimum of 72 hours, she said.
For more information on emergency preparedness, go to www.fema.org for checklists to help you be better prepared.
Wright said residents should also register their wireless phones in Richmond County’s Emergency Notification System. To register your number, go to www.richmondnc.com/dept_emergsvcs.aspx . This will allow you to receive emergency notification information such as evacuations and shelter openings. You can receive the message via voice, text or email.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.