Officials discuss county HazMAP details

Alayna Payne with the North Central Texas Council of Governments presented information about Parker County’s Hazard Mitigation Action Plan Tuesday afternoon that is reviewed and adopted every five years to plan and prepare for natural disasters.

Local and state officials held a required public meeting Tuesday afternoon at the Emergency Operations Center in Weatherford to discuss details about the Parker County Hazard Mitigation Action Plan.

Mitigation means taking sustained action to reduce or eliminate the long-term risks to people and property from hazards.

The participating jurisdictions for the HazMAP are Aledo, Hudson Oaks, Weatherford, Willow Park, Springtown and Parker County unincorporated.

“Having a Hazard Mitigation Action Plan is really really important and we do this every five years, so we have a number of entities that are working with Parker County on this,” Community Liaison for Emergency Preparedness Kit Marshall said.

North Central Texas Council of Governments Emergency Preparedness Specialist and Hazard Mitigation Planner Alayna Payne went over why a HazMAP is important and the steps involved in the process.

“So back in 2000, the Disaster Mitigation Act was created by Congress and it requires that state and local governments plan and prepare for future natural disasters. This all came about because Congress was realizing that disasters were costing more and more,” Payne said. “Between 1980-89, FEMA disaster costs were $3.9 billion; between 1990-99, it rose to $25.4 billion in FEMA disaster costs; between 2000-09, it was over $150 billion, so Congress saw they were spending more and more money to recover from all these disasters. So this saves you money and the government money.”

Having a HazMAP is a key eligibility requirement in order for the county to acquire grant funding and there are four steps in the process.

The first step, which has been completed, is to organize resources. This includes determining the planning area and resources, building the planning team, creating an outreach strategy and reviewing the community’s capabilities.

The second step, which has also been completed is to assess the risks.

“We’ve identified nine natural hazards in Parker County — drought, earthquakes, expansive soils, extreme heat, flooding, thunderstorms, tornadoes, wildfires and winter storms, not in that order — and some of those hazards might not be a problem, but because it’s a hazard that could happen, it has to be in the plan,” Payne said.

The third step is plan development, which involves developing the mitigation strategy based upon the risk assessment findings and the final step in the process is plan implementation.

“So the mitigation plan itself doesn’t do much on its own, it can’t be legally enforced, it’s just a plan to have,” Payne said.

As for the participating jurisdictions, Payne said it does not include Parker County as a whole.

“Some people get confused when it says Parker County Hazard Mitigation Action Plan thinking it’s the whole county and we’re all covered, that’s not the case,” Payne said. “Each community gets a notice of intent to participate and they actively choose to participate in this plan. It’s a lot of leg work that not everyone is comfortable with. If a community decides they want to be a part of the plan, they are more than welcome to join on the next update and even though it says we update this plan every five years, we really start every three years because it takes a while to build up the plan.”

According to data shared by Payne, Texas has the most billion dollar disaster events occur in the U.S., which she said could be because of increased population and businesses.

“There was a recent study done in 2017 that shows mitigation grants funded through federal government agencies can save the nation $6 in future disaster costs for every $1 spent on hazard mitigation,” Payne said. “So lets say you spent $100,000 on a safe room, that potentially saved you at least $600,000 in future damage costs. So it really shows you that mitigation is money up front, but really saves you a ton in the long run.”

FEMA administers three grant programs for eligible mitigation plans — the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, the Flood Mitigation Assistance Program and the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program.

“So right now we’re in the step of preparing the mitigation strategy and we’re about to address the activities we want to implement over the next five years and then we’ll start to review this mitigation plan after we’ve created it and then adopt and implement this plan,” Payne said. “The Council of Governments will be creating this mitigation plan based on all the data that we receive from the participants and then we have to send it to the Texas Division of Emergency Management for their formal review. That can take a while. Once the state approves the plan, they send it to FEMA and then we have to wait for FEMA to review not just our plan, but every plan in the United States.”

Marshall pointed out that some smaller cities opt out of joining the HazMAP because of the fiscal aspect.

“All of the incorporated jurisdictions were sent notices and so there are things they have to consider — how big is their jurisdiction, what’s the population — but even more than that, it comes down to money. What is the cost of their match going to be? Everybody pays the same match and if a city drops out, that match increases for all the other jurisdictions that have turned in their agreement,” Marshall said. “So if you’re a very small city with very few residents, then it doesn’t make fiscal sense.”

Hughes said the plan will be making its way to the Parker County Commissioners Court for review and approval at a future meeting.