Does Your City or Town have an Up-to Date Climate Action and Hazard Mitigation Plan?
It is an important question that most residents and business owners probably don’t know to ask. Yet some day, in the not-to-distant future, it could rank up there with the quality of the public-school system and city services.
A viable climate action plan reflects a municipality’s interest in its citizens' long-term well-being while acknowledging its interconnectedness to surrounding communities and its role in combatting climate change. It will include a greenhouse gas baseline and a plan with milestones to reduce that inventory to below critical thresholds. It should also include an assessment of climate-related threats. Those threats should tie into a “hazard mitigation” plan that reflects a community’s level of preparedness in the event of a disaster... that may be a direct consequence of or aggravated by climate change.
How well can your town’s infrastructure and services absorb an “disruptive event”? How quickly and effectively can its services respond to resulting emergency situations? What is the timeframe for full recovery from the event? The answers to these questions ultimately translate into lives, livelihood, and money. (Visit chart in philosophy tab for more details) Better prepared communities should have critical infrastructure redundancy (or back up), designated assembly points, communication protocols and predesignated resilience centers with emergency supplies. They should also have arrangements with nearby towns to assist and cooperating in recovery efforts. The list of preparations can go on. Done wisely with an eye towards also streamlining operations, increasing efficiency, enhancing sustainability, and cultivating natural resources under normal conditions, the investment in preparedness can pay dividends to the towns many times over.
The value of a well-stocked library, eye-catching town hall or state-of-the art school buildings with excellent teachers is diminished if a town is vulnerable to a prolonged recovery period from a disaster. In such cases, even after services are fully restored – the long ensuing tail of finger pointing, lawsuits and distrust can detract further from available resources and undermine the very fabric of a town character. Consider tropical storm Isaias’s enduring impact on many of the towns of the southeastern Connecticut. Furthermore, cities and towns without viable, state approved hazard mitigation plans are not eligible for FEMA matching fund programs, such as the recently established Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program. This program makes hazard mitigation projects once considered out of reach, very affordable. It’s a carrot & stick requirement for something that should be integral to a municipality's mandate. Yet towns and cities of all shapes and sizes fail to produce or keep up to date such plans. To find out if your city or town has an approved hazard mitigation plan, visit FEMA’s interactive map.
FEMA Map Excerpt: Towns shaded in grey have never presented a Hazard Mitigation plan for State or Federal Approval. Plans in yellow shaded towns have expired.
Municipal residents and businesses should recognize that a lack of readiness can have adverse impact on their livelihood and well-being, even without ever having to experience an "event". Ultimately, in the face of more frequent and severe events, the value of real estate and insurance costs will reflect the increased risk and costs associated with the vulnerabilities of inadequate preparation. Foresighted residents and town leaders should urge their local government and institutions to immediately embark on constructive measures that enhance sustainability, make meaningful progress against climate goals, AND prepare for possible climate related disasters. With creativity, thoughtfulness and a modest tolerance for "baby step" risks, such early endeavors will prove of great economic and societal value to its community for generations to come.