The community knows best where the hazards that need mitigating are, V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency officials said Thursday at a public meeting on St. John. As the agency updates its Hazard Mitigation Plan, the staff hopes that people will email their concerns.
“The more expert knowledge we get, the more we can improve the plan,” Haldor Farquhar, VITEMA’s hazard mitigation officer, said at the meeting held at Julius E. Sprauve School.
He said the plan was first written in 2005. This is the third update.
VITEMA officials said they hoped the public would let them know in person but only Sprauve Principal Dionne Wells and a few members of her staff, as well as St. John Community Foundation Director Celia Kalousek, attended the meeting.
VITEMA is up against a May 25 deadline to get the existing 2011 plan updated.
“Our goal is to get it done by the 25th or, if not, as close to the 25th as we can be,” Farquhar said.
VITEMA is currently looking for a contractor to take the plan to the next level, but Farquhar said if they don’t get one, VITEMA will “step up to the plate.”
Farquhar said if the agency doesn’t get the plan done on time, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would cut back on what it will do in case a disaster hits.
He said that FEMA would still do what he called A and B – clear the roads of trees and put emergency and critical facilities back in place to the way they were before the disaster hit. If the plan isn’t done, FEMA won’t repair roads and do improvements.
According to Farquhar, FEMA is shifting the responsibility for mitigation planning from the federal agency to the states, territories and Indian tribes.
In addition to the planning process, the hazard mitigation plan includes risk assessment, hazard mitigation strategies and “hazard mitigation planning maintenance.”
Part of the plan includes a mapping system that allows officials to determine where the low lying areas sit to determine, for example, how vulnerable they’ll be in a storm surge.
The plan will also include an assessment of buildings that, should a “6.3 earthquake hit,” what buildings will be expected to “go down.”
The plan update will cost $200,000 with $150,000 of that figure coming from the federal government and $50,000 from the local government.
Austin Callwood, VITEMA’s newly named assistant territorial director, was also at the meeting. When asked to rate the territory on its disaster preparedness, he gave it a B.
He said the departments and agencies that respond in disasters do so “very efficiently.”
“We’re gearing up to get the group together to do planning,” he said.
To let VITEMA know where you think hazards need mitigating, email Farquhar at email@example.com.