Public Input Sought on Plans To Lessen Damage From Natural or Manmade Disasters

MIDDLESEX COUNTY—The Middlesex County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) will bold a public meeting to discuss plans the office is developing to help reduce the impact of any future natural or manmade disasters, such as flooding, high winds, dam failure or chemical spills.

Draft proposals for the county’s Hazard Mitigation Plan will be reviewed at 7 p.m. July 23 at the Middlesex County Fire Academy in Sayreville.

County officials, members of the New Jersey Hazard Mitigation Steering Committee and a consultant hired to help develop the plans will answer questions, receive public input and information, and address public commentary.

“In order to develop the most comprehensive, most effective plan, we need to have input from residents, employers employees, and property and business owners,” said Freeholder Christopher D. Rafano, chair of the county’s Law and Public Safety Committee. “We need to paint as clear and complete a picture as possible to design plans that will offer the best possible results. You can’t stop Mother Nature, and not all accidents are avoidable, but we can certainly solidify our plans to lessen any impact they may have.”

“Middlesex County always puts the safety of out residents first,” said Freeholder Director David B. Crabiel. “We have comprehensive plans in place to respond to any emergency, we train and equip our first responders and as this hazard mitigation planning shows, take all opportunities to ensure our policies and procedures remain current and effective.”

According to federal law, communities must have a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)-approved Hazard Mitigation Plan in place to be eligible for certain FEMA post-disaster assistance and pre-disaster hazard mitigation project grant monies.

Middlesex County is leading the effort to develop this plan with the participation of all 25 municipalities. Elected and appointed government officials, business leaders, volunteers of nonprofit organizations, citizens, and other stakeholders have been invited to participate.

“While disaster recovery is vital to any emergency, we need to be just as diligent with our plans to mitigate any problems before they occur,” Rafano said. “The more we do to safeguard our residents and their property before a crisis hits, the better our communities will weather any storm.”

The meetings discussion will focus on four issues:
• Identification of a full range of natural and manmade hazard events.
• Identification of the most significant of these hazards that will be the focus of the plan.
• Identification of the location and extent of hazard areas.
• Identification of assets located within hazard areas.

Once the county evaluates the hazards it is susceptible to and the extent to which events might occur, it can then develop objectives and actions intended to minimize future losses of life and property resulting from these hazards.

After that, the county will identify policies and tools – including funding—that can be used to implement those actions.

The planning process is expected to continue until early 2009.

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