Fulton County has participated in the development of a Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan which will allow the county to maintain eligibility for certain federal grant programs that assisted in recovery efforts after this year's county-wide flood damage.
The Encarta World English Dictionary defines mitigation as the effort of making something less harsh, severe or violent. The mitigation plan will be in place to help make a severe disaster, less severe if the county is faced with the situation.
"They are in the beginning stages of putting it together," Fulton County Office of Emergency Service Manager Darrell Zimmer said.
"What it does is sets up plans for us to use as far as mitigating hazards. It looks at what our risks are in the county as far as tornados and such. They rate the hazards on the plan in order of what is most likely to happen to us. We use the plan to draw up emergency operation plans and methods to respond to those events. That is what that plan will be used for once they get it all in place," Zimmer said.
February brought a devastating tornado to the area, leaving a gash across the state over 120 miles long. The following month brought heavy rains to the area that destroyed or damaged each road in Fulton County. In recent months, a rash of severe storms and flooding have continued to bludgeon the Midwest and as close as southern Missouri.
"For our area the biggest dangers are going to be tornados, high winds, severe storms and flooding I believe are the top dangers on the plan," Zimmer said.
With the temperament of Mother Nature often in question, Fulton County is entering the mitigation plan to be prepared if the weather takes a turn for the worst by being eligible for government funding.
"Once we participate in this mitigation it also makes grants available to us in those areas to help get funding to get the county, towns and people prepared for those emergency and disaster type things," Zimmer said.
"The county has already received mitigation grants on some of the road projects where we have, for example, an area where a bridge washed out all the time, these repetitive things happening in the same area, the county judge has been able to obtain grants to fix those. They are matching grants, the government pays like 80 percent and the county pays 20 percent. The plan will open up those funds to the county to apply and be eligible for," Zimmer said.
According to Zimmer, once the county is fully engaged in the mitigation plan the county schools will be able to apply for safe rooms, which protect the students in a time of emergency.
"GEOFEMME has put together the plan, that is who is contracted to do it, based on the information provided to them from the county. They have to open it up for public comment. So anybody that is interested can look at the plan. If they have a concern that is not being addressed in that plan it can be brought forward for us to look at and have it included in the plan if it is a legitimate issue," Zimmer said.
"Once that is done, the girl at GEOFEEME can turn it into FEMA and get it approved," Zimmer said.
The actual plan, which is about 70 pages in length, is available at the Fulton County Court House for viewing between the hours of 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. It is also available electronically by visiting www.GEOFEMME.com and clicking on Arkansas Plans and Fulton County Mitigation Plan.
According to the Fulton County Judge's Office, comments are welcome and should be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax to 267-295-2674 with Fulton County as the subject.
Comments will be received until July 16 and incorporated into the final version of the plan. "Thank you for taking time to help our community," Fulton County Judge Charles Willett said.