Emergency planners ask for public’s help..

Survey to take pulse of county’s disaster preparedness

Kaci Poor/The Times-Standard
Posted: 05/29/2013

Humboldt County emergency officials are looking to the public to help better prepare for future natural disasters and clear the way for pre-disaster mitigation funding.

County residents will have until late August to complete an online survey that will be used by a coalition of county, city and special services district officials to update the Humboldt Operation Area Hazard Mitigation Plan. The plan, created in 2008, addresses a variety of potential natural hazards — like floods, fires, tsunamis and earthquakes — that could affect local residents, and identifies projects for funding that could help reduce damages should such events occur.

Cybelle Immitt, a senior planner for the county who organized the survey that went online last week, said the survey is part of a required five-year plan update to ensure eligibility for future mitigation funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Immitt said both the city of Fortuna and the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District have used the plan to secure FEMA grant funds for disaster mitigation infrastructure projects.

”With both of those entities relying on the FEMA funds, we are kind of under the gun to stay on track with this plan update in order to maintain our eligibility,” she said.

Humboldt Bay Fire Chief Bill Gillespie, who sits on the 14-member steering committee for the plan update, said while the survey is chiefly designed to help officials prepare the updated plan, it will also provides officials with insight into the community’s disaster readiness. The survey’s questions range from where residents get their emergency information, to whether they feel prepared for a natural disaster and if they have emergency equipment like fire alarms, disaster supply kits and battery-powered radios.

”The feedback will help paint a profile of the knowledge, understanding and preparedness of residents on the North Coast,” he said. “That way, we can tailor our public education and other projects to meet those needs.”

Humboldt County Public Works Deputy Director Hank Seemann, who also sits on the steering committee, said it is important that residents from across the county take the time to fill out the survey.

”We invested a lot time to develop a robust survey so that we could really take the pulse of the local community in terms of awareness and opportunities to reduce risk and exposure to those risks,” he said. “The more responses we get, the more statistically significant the results are.”

Immitt said officials are aiming for 2,700 respondents, or about 2 percent of the county’s total population.

”It’s a lofty goal, but we will see,” she said. “We already have 200 respondents, and that is just from the small amount of exposure the survey has gotten so far.”

In addition to the online survey, the steering committee will hold two public workshops on July 10 at Fortuna’s River Lodge and July 11 at the Arcata Community Center before a draft of the plan update is submitted for preliminary review in September.

To take the survey online, visit /www.surveymonkey.com/s/HumboldtCohazmit. Paper copies of the survey will also be available at both public workshops for those without Internet access. For more information about the FEMA Local Hazard Mitigation Program, including documents, links, meeting agendas and minutes, visit co.humboldt.ca.us/natural-resources/hazardmitigation/

Kaci Poor can be reached at 441-0504 or kpoor@times-standard.com

~from http://www.times-standard.com/news/ci_23343221/emergency-planners-ask-publics-help-survey-take-pulse

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