Mitigating disaster: Thurston County is getting an update to our hazards mitigation plan


Thurston County’s hazard mitigation plan was brought to the Tumwater City Council work session yesterday. Planning Manager Brad Medrud laid out the details, explaining “this is our five-year update. We are now in the process of going through the update.” He talked about the importance of this information being available to the City Council and to the public to understand and give feedback on the process.

In the presentation and agenda, it was shown that more than 20 local agencies in Thurston County are working together to prepare the fourth edition of the Plan in 2022-23. Working on a plan for preparedness, response, and mitigation of emergencies.

“We have a lot of opportunities for natural disasters in the community,” He related that this can cause lengthy disruptions that are very costly to communities. And that mitigation timing is an important component that can eliminate many of the long-term risks to life and property before they can occur.

Medrud talked about the need for preparedness response and mitigation preparedness and how it is “Really all those activities you do in anticipation for an actual emergency of that having supplies ready, to housing personnel trained already in emergency situations, all of those kinds of things are part of the preparedness side.”

  • Response side is what happens after the event that is emergency services going into action, all the support services needed to support those emergency services as the events occurring in the aftermath.
  • Mitigation really is taking a look at those things before you get to the preparedness and response activities to try to minimize the potential risks for those things to occur and also, hopefully, reduce the need for the level of preparedness and response that would be required otherwise.

The plan currently being used was adopted in 2017, and is a third edition of the broader regional plan. The hazard mitigation plan is required to be updated every five years by federal law to be eligible for the federal mitigation grant programs.

Local hazards

In the agenda notes it was stated that the topics covered in this plan:

“Earthquakes, landslides, severe storms, floods, wildland fires, volcanic events, and other less common hazards cause lengthy disruptions and are costly to communities, the state, and the federal government. Hazard mitigation planning is intended to identify and implement sustained actions that eliminate long-term risks to life and property.”

Tumwater city has its own annex and a plan that discusses those actions the city itself will undertake to address hazards that are present. Medrud relates, “for example, our current plan has a chapter annex that deals with how we deal with earthquakes in terms of where we don't put buildings and not in liquefaction zones.”

Detailing more Medrud says, “So obviously, it's been 21 years since we've had a major earthquake, but that doesn't mean you're not going to have another one. Earthquakes… Storms, that could be our winter ice storms and we seem to get on a fairly regular basis with some other related storm activity. Floods, mudslides, wildfire fire hazards, seem to be more common. Last year was an especially bad year for that – that started to affect the city itself. And then we're on the outside edge of this potential for volcanic hazards in other parts of Thurston County.”

According to Medrud, the contents of the plan are fairly simple. “We've got our basic community profile and the Capacity Assessment essentially what emergency services, what availability, and so forth. And then we evaluate the different risk assessments that our community faces. That includes (the) severity of these potential things happening, impacts from those, the probability, what does the history look like?”

Funding and timeline

Council member Leatta Dahlhoff asked about the budget. “This is a budget year,” she said, further asking, ”when we get going on the budget, will we link these elements to make sure that these are incorporated in our budget, or is it already so broad in our budget that it is addressed? Are there things that we still need to identify?”

Medrud related that the plan is not to the point of being developed enough for this budget cycle, which is this year for Tumwater City Council.

“The 2017 plan to sort of gives a hint at the areas likely (to) be covered. Say, for example, additional training of emergency services to deal with a particular item or for our comprehensive plan, update, focusing energy on the climate mitigation component of that because that's another thing that we need to address that just also happens, say, to address our wildfire issues as well,” he said.

According to Medrud, the hazard mitigation workgroup has been meeting monthly since February and will be continuing until spring of next year. “We are working right now to identify mitigation stakeholders, that's additional people that we should be bringing into the process to talk about that. We were sharing ideas and resources and… responsibly revealing the draft plan,” he added.

The workgroup meetings are held online and are open to the public,d available through the website. Medrud shared that the public outreach portion that includes a survey, is an important component of the project. The survey will be available until the end of July. “It really is our means of caring from the broader community about what they know about the hazards they're concerned about and how they want us to take action to reduce losses. We're going to be developing the updated plan itself during the fall. And we're going to be starting the formal city review and adoption process in the first half of 2023.”

The community survey can be reached at this website. The previous presentations and schedule are also available.



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