Long-term planning for disasters and severe weather - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Long-term planning for disasters and severe weather

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- In the state of Iowa, each county and many cities have their own plans in place in case of man-made or natural disaster, including severe weather. The plans get reviewed every several years; right now, Dubuque is looking at its plans.

In looking at a list of possible hazards for the hazard mitigation plan, four out of five of the city's top priorities are weather events we usually get in the spring.

"What we're doing with the city hazard mitigation plan is going through, identifying projects we can do to lessen the effect of a disaster," Dubuque County Emergency Management Coordinator Tom Berger said.

To plan for disasters, the city looks at specific potential projects to lessen the impact.

 For example, "One hazard mitigation program that we're looking for is with the new airport terminal, to designate a safe place, a safe room, tornado shelter out at the airport," Berger said.

A committee has been working on the plan for about a year. It includes various groups, like the fire department. Emergency responders focus on elements like organizing mutual aid agreements for disasters or emergencies.

"Our role is first response. We're going to respond, and as we do everyday, for the issues that come, whatever's created out there, and stabilize them as quick as we can," Fire Chief Dan Brown said.

The committee looks at potential disasters (15 types) to decide which need the most preparation. Severe winter storms rank first, followed in order by windstorms, thunder and lightning storms, flash floods, and tornados. Dam failure is identified as the lowest risk event. Earthquakes are number eleven, meaning not as much pre-planning. It comes down, in part, to funding.

"It'd be tough for us to go to council and say we need 'x' amount of dollars to prepare for an earthquake when we have tornados or severe thunderstorms or ice storms happening all the time," Berger said.

A big part of the mitigation plan is getting information out to the public and encouraging everyone to be ready. Outdoor sirens and emergency announcements through radio, television, etc. are part of that portion.

"If it's an ice storm, snowstorm, tornado, earthquake, whatever would happen, have your own personal plan in place," Brown said. "Personal planning is just as important as anything we would do on a city, state or county or federal level."

The last hazard mitigation plan was designed in 2004. This update was paid for with Federal Emergency Management Agency funds and local matching money.

To view the city's most recent draft plan, click here.

The city council must approve the final plan which officials say will likely be presented at the next meeting in two weeks. The city plans to next update the hazard mitigation plan in 2014.

The county is also completely updating the County Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan, which is done every five years.

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