Richland County, like the rest of the State of Wisconsin, is vulnerable to a variety of disasters. Wisconsin has incurred disaster-related damages totaling $3 billion in the last three decades, but future losses can be reduced through mitigation activities. A recent study by the National Institute of Building Sciences shows that each dollar spent on mitigation saves society an average of six dollars. As of July 8, 2020, there have been 273 disasters since 1980 that have each cost the US $1 billion or more in damages, spending, and lost economic productivity, according to data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Mitigation actions reduce or eliminate the long-term risk to human life and property from hazards. These preventative actions can be as simple as elevating a furnace in a basement that sometimes has water on the floor. Mitigation can also have a comprehensive approach such as relocating buildings out of the floodplain or strengthening critical facilities to prevent wind damage and provide stronger shelter.
In an effort to better prepare Richland County to manage its vulnerability to disaster, Darin Gudgeon, Richland County Emergency Management Director, applied for and received a Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) plan update grant. This goal of this project is to complete the federally required 5-year plan update, which is due to be completed by October 2022. The County All-Hazards Mitigation Plan serves as a roadmap that outlines potential cost-effective hazard mitigation activities, some of which might be available for future grant funding. Hazard mitigation plans and projects reduce overall risks to the population and structures while also reducing reliance on funding from actual disaster declarations. For example, the rigorous building standards adopted by 20,000 communities across the country are saving the nation more than $1.1 billion a year in prevented flood damages.
The plan is designed to look at the risks and vulnerabilities that the county faces from natural disaster and to develop mitigation strategies that might reduce future losses. As part of this planning process, Gudgeon assembled a workgroup to review and guide the plan update activities. The workgroup reviewed background information about events that have occurred in Richland County, conducted surveys with all the municipalities and public infrastructure entities, and identified several mitigation strategies that could help reduce loss in future disasters. Gudgeon stated, “the input provided by the surveys and the subsequent mitigations strategies that were identified can have long-lasting impacts, making Richland County safer and more disaster-resistant.”
County and State emergency management officials recognize the importance of having members of the community involved in the process, and Gudgeon would like to ensure that all interested members of the community have an opportunity to provide input into the hazards mitigation plan. If you are interested in more information about the plan or would like to provide input into the plan, you can reach out via email to either Darin Gudgeon at firstname.lastname@example.org or John Heinen at email@example.com.