Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

The Morris County Office of Emergency Management has begun working with the county’s 39 municipalities to develop a comprehensive hazard mitigation plan.

The completed plan will include a risk assessment and a hazard-mitigation strategy that will identify hazard mitigation projects that can reduce the risk of loss of life, injury and property damage from future natural and manmade disasters.

According to the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders, creation of this plan will allow the county and the participating municipalities to be eligible for future mitigation funding from FEMA.

The plan will identify and lay the ground work for implementing hazard mitigation projects, including those that are eligible for federal funding and those that may not qualify for federal funds but are of clear value to local communities.

Additionally, this plan will identify mechanisms for integrating hazard mitigation into other related planning efforts.

The primary natural hazard in Morris County is flooding, but other potential hazards such as drought, extreme cold, extreme heat, snow, ice, hail, windstorms and tornadoes will be included in the planning process.

The vulnerability to various natural hazards will be determined based on existing and future buildings, infrastructure and critical facilities that might be impacted. Critical facilities include shelters and hospitals; infrastructure includes power-generation facilities, water utilities, roadways, railroads and communication systems.

The risk assessment will identify hazards that may impact the county and municipalities; profile the relevant hazards and their potential consequences; identify assets that are subject to losses or damage, including physical structures, functions and populations; and estimate the potential losses that could result from each type of hazard.

Following the risk assessment, the county will develop a hazard mitigation strategy that will include the identification of hazard mitigation goals as well as a prioritized list of actions designed to reduce losses.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded Morris County a $300,000 grant under the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program. The county has contracted with James Lee Witt Associates of Washington D.C., part of the Global Options Group, to develop the hazard mitigation plan in accordance with state and federal standards.

The county and the municipalities will contribute an additional $100,000 of staff services, bringing the project total to $400,000.

A series of public meetings will be part of the plan development process, both to solicit public comment and to present the draft plan to residents and local officials. The meetings this year will be Oct. 22, Nov. 12 and Dec. 10.

The 2009 public meetings have been scheduled for Jan. 28, Feb. 25, March 25, April 22, May 27, June 24, July 22, Aug. 26, Sept. 23, Oct. 28, Nov. 25 and Dec. 23.

All of the meetings will be at 2 p.m. in the Office of Emergency Management in the Morris County Public Safety Training Academy, 500 West Hanover Ave., in Parsippany.

Information about the Morris County Multi-Jurisdictional Hazards Mitigation Plan will be posted on the Office of Emergency Web site, WWW.MORRISOEM.ORG.