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Mitigation Planning for an Unincorporated Rural County

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Mitigation Planning for the Rural South

October 11, 2018

Emergency Management 483

Jake Jarosz

AnaStacia P. Howell



The development of hazard mitigation plans are to protect the health, safety and economic interests of residents by reducing the impacts of natural hazards through planning, awareness, and implementation of mitigation alternatives. Hazard mitigation, an essential element of emergency management, along with preparedness, response, and recovery plans, is any action taken to reduce or permanently eliminate the long-term risk to human life and property from natural hazards (FEMA, 2000). The development and acceptance of multi-jurisdictional plans by the federal government occurs as long as each jurisdiction has participated in the process and has officially adopted the plan (MRSC, 2018).

Rural and remote areas are impacted by the same natural and man-made disasters and hazards that affect metropolitan areas; therefore, it is essential to develop a hazard mitigation plan for Alpine, Alabama, an unincorporated rural community (McMillan, 1988). Located in southwest Talladega County, Alpine is not governed by the local municipal corporation, nor does it have its own municipal corporation to govern it, but rather, it is administered as part of Talladega County’s larger administrative divisions (U. S. Geological Survey, 2018). Therefore, the purpose of this literature review is to develop a hazards mitigation plan for Alpine. Alpine is in need of a hazard mitigation plan, not only because of natural or man-made disasters and hazards, but due also to its close proximity to Logan Martin. Located just off the beaten path of Logan Martin, the Alpine community begins at tip of the dam.

Literature Review

Built in 1964, Logan Martin, a man-made reservoir, which includes Logan Martin Dam and Logan Martin Lake, was the second dam built as a part of the construction program of the Alabama Power Company. Initially, Lake Martin began as a resource for energy production. Lake Martin continues today as a place for economic development, system of irrigation, drinking water, fish and wildlife habitation, and recreation. However, Lake Martin is besieged with hazardous zones that include swirling waters with vigorous underwater currents, electrical hazards with turbulent energy discharges, cascading spillway discharges with powerful unpredictable currents, hazards of rapidly rising and turbulent waters, slippery shoreline surfaces, and flood zones caused by storms and severe thunderstorms (Alabama Power Shoreline Management, 2018). Although not an exhaustive list of hazards, the preceding list includes enough potential hazards to warrant the creation of a hazard mitigation plan for Alpine.

Bobko and Kamin’s (2015) research found a major gap in the security of critical infrastructures in response to disasters, hazards, and other emergencies. This study found clear evidence that demonstrates that, in spite of ongoing improvements to the first-responder system, there exists an inherent delay in the immediate response or medical care at the scene of an emergency. According to the authors, the reduction of such delays occur only through a societal shift in a community’s reliance on police and fire response and by extending the coordination of efforts between the emergency response system or medical system throughout a community and into all communities. The nature of injuries, medical, and other emergencies, in conjunction with an unavoidable delay in the arrival of first responders, necessitates the need for immediate care on scene. This research indicates that immediately addressing medical and other emergencies following a traumatic event has saved lives. Typically, bystanders armed who have only basic first-aid training render initial care during a crisis, which does not adequately address the traumatic injury patterns seen in most disasters, hazards, or emergencies. Therefore, implementing an approach similar to FEMA’s Mitigation Planning guidelines can improve the outcomes of disastrous, hazardous, or traumatic events. Bobko and Kamin’s analyses on the latest data on emergencies warrants a proposal to develop a mitigation plan for the Alpine area that includes a network of trauma-trained medical extenders to improve the resilience of this community to catastrophic disasters, hazards, and other emergencies.

The Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (DMA 2000), (Public Law 106-390) provides the legal basis for Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) mitigation planning requirements for State, local, and Indian Tribal governments as a condition of mitigation grant assistance. The Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 amended the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Acts. The Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 repealed the preceding mitigation planning provisions and replaced them with updated requirements, which accentuate the need for State, local, and Tribal Indian entities to coordinate their mitigation planning and implementation efforts closely with private sector entities and the community (FEMA, 2000).

The requirement for a State mitigation plan continues as a condition of disaster assistance, with incentives added to increase the coordination and integration of mitigation planning activities at the State level through the establishment of requirements for two different levels of state plans. Additionally, the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 established a new requirement for local mitigation plans that authorizes up to seven percent of the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program available funds to a State for the development of mitigation plans at the State, local, and Tribal Indian levels. The intent of the Disaster Mitigation Act is for the Federal Government to provide systematic and continuing means of assistance to State, local, Tribal Indian governments to carry out their responsibilities to alleviate and/or eradicate the suffering and damage caused by disasters and hazards (FEMA, 2000).

A comprehensive review of the State of Alabama’s Mitigation Plan found that it addresses long-term, permanent solutions to the problems caused by natural disasters. Alabama designed the plan in order to focus on disasters before, during, and after they occur. The state mitigation plan is an umbrella for the local plans required for mitigation grant programs. Mitigation begins at the local level, in communities, towns, and cities where impacts of damaging events first occur. Local mitigation planning focuses community attention on development issues prior to a disaster, ensuring participation in a more proactive sense. Through participation in the hazard mitigation planning process, local entities will possess the capability to identify, take advantage of, and implement mitigation strategies. Active hazard mitigation in a community also contributes to public safety and welfare, economic development, and environmental protection (Alabama Coastal Hazards Assessment Project Partners, 2018).

The State of Alabama’s Hazard Mitigation Plan also describes each major hazard that poses a significant risk to the state. Alabama’s plan also includes historical background, vulnerability, exposures, and potential losses. The plan covers mitigation efforts designed to reduce damage. The mitigation opportunities include measures contained in past disaster and hazard specific plans, Interagency Hazard Mitigation and Strategy Reports, as well as measures identified by state, county, and city officials and volunteer emergency response organizations. Although the plan provides recommendations that address ice storms, tornadoes, and earthquakes, the Plan focused on those hazards that most directly affect the coast such as dam safety, flooding, and hurricanes (Alabama Coastal Hazards Assessment Project Partners 2018).

The Talladega County Emergency Management Agency’s (TCEMA) Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan (“the Plan”) fulfills part 44CFR 201.6 (4) (iii), of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000.  Established in 1832, as one of Alabama’s 67 counties (Siebenthaler, 2009), Talladega County’s multi-jurisdictional authority includes nine incorporated cities (TCEMA, 2018), which serve forty-two unincorporated cities and towns (Alabama AHGP, 2011), with a total population of 80,065 within its 753 square miles (U. S. Census Bureau, 2017). The design of the Plan is to protect human life and health by reducing or eliminating the effects and long-term risks of hazards to people and their property, including public facilities, utilities, farmlands, and natural resources.  Implementing the Plan can increase public awareness of risks and mitigation, minimize business interruptions, minimize costly expenditures for flood control projects, and ensures the sound use and development of flood prone areas (TCEMA, 2013).

A review of TCEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Plan reveals that the document provides a brief discussion of the benefits of implementing a hazard mitigation plan, hazard mitigation measures, non-structural mitigation activities, and structural mitigation measures. The document provides an overview of Talladega County with a discussion of its history, physiography, water supply, drainage, population, housing, and economy. The document also discusses the county’s infrastructure, including its five-member County Commission, eleven water systems, five sewer systems, two electrical service providers, streets and transportation, as well information and communication providers and systems. The document also discusses the county’s planning process with a summary of existing policies and available administrative resources throughout Talladega County (TCEMA, 2013).


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