Hazard mitigation is the active process of reducing the impact of disasters before, during or after they have happened to avert human suffering and loss of lives and property. The creation of a Hazard Mitigation plan is one of the four requirements for any state to qualify for funding from FEMA (FEMA, 2006). The city of Atlanta is required by law to have a Hazard Mitigation Plan (HMP) designed according to the specific hazards that are most likely to disrupt the city. The city of Atlanta is located in the Georgia state in the South east region. It is the largest city and serves as the main transportation and communications center thus aiding in effective distribution of goods.
The city lies on an area of approximately 133 square miles with the biggest coordinates lying in the Fulton County but extending to both DeKalb and Cobb Counties. As at 2015, the population of Atlanta was estimated to be 439,696 with the largest percentage being blacks and African Americans. Initially an agricultural zone, Atlanta has transformed into a hub for a variety of industries including aerospace, energy, agribusiness, manufacturing, arts and information technology. Some major businesses that support the city’s growth include Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, BellSouth, Georgia-Pacific, Home Depot, and UPS among other large companies. The city falls within the Apalachicola River system with Chattahoochee River passing through the city. The diversity of the city warrants that the Hazard Mitigation Plan incorporates the probability of technological and natural hazards.
Stage 1: Organizing Resources
As per the FEMA regulations, the city of Atlanta has continuously been actively involved in the formulation of Fulton County Regional Hazard Mitigation Plans. The city has supported the county through mobilizing and coordination of public participation within its jurisdiction. The information from the Regional Hazard Mitigation Plans has been used in identification of potential risks to the community and to formulate strategies for impact reduction. Essentially, the city has used the data in coming up with its own Hazard Mitigation Plan.
Definition of the planning Area
The Hazard Mitigation Plan will cover all areas within the boundaries of Atlanta city. It covers the entire area of 331 square kilometers including Metro Atlanta. However, despite covering three counties, the Hazard Mitigation Plan shall follow the guidelines of the Fulton County Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan.
Assessment of Community Support
The Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 stipulates that public participation be conducted at least twice before the plan is approved and with special focus on the draft stages. It is of paramount importance to therefore, inform the community of the process of drafting the plan and the risks that it aims to address. The community of Atlanta must be convened together to give feedback on the hazards identified and how best they can be mitigated. The absence of community participation would be a big blow to the success of the formulation of the hazard mitigation plan (Rovins, 2009).
In reaching out to the community, the Hazard Mitigation Committee should bank on the available information technology within the city. Traditionally, people would be convened in community groupings and feedback collected from the input of participants. The cost and time implications of the traditional method of community involvement are motivations for the use of new ways of collecting feedback. In this regard, the HMC should use social media and the websites of both the city and the county to disseminate information on the same. The city’s website should contain information on how the community can be involved in the formulation of the plan. The committee should further provide online surveys for people to fill in the information required. Moreover, the website could contain information about the location and time of public review meetings and even steering committee meetings.
Establishing a planning Team
The first step before any mitigation process is instigated is the formulation of a planning team that can help in steering the process. The Hazard Mitigation Committee should be all encompassing and should include different stakeholders from different fields of expertise. The more diverse the committee, the higher the chances of having a good mitigation plan. All the departments of Atlanta city should be represented in the committee including the fire authority and the city’s police department. In addition, other representatives should be sought from the main business players such as Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines and the universities within the city. The department of public health should also have a representative as well as the department of natural resources (Carmona, 2010). Moreover, the religious faiths should also have representatives in the committee because they provide better insights on real issues on the ground.
The incorporation of representatives with different expertise provides a better insight of the social, economic and political interactions in the city and how such spheres will be affected by hazards. Upon constitution of the HMC, It should be sworn in by the mayor of the city as well as the city council to give it authority to work. The acquisition of official recognition is to safeguard the activities of the committee in relation to the planning process. In addition, recognition can help the committee to get support from the authority thereby making its operations smooth and successful.
It is then the committee’s duty to formulate timelines that are manageable and realistic. The members should be able and willing to meet all round the year for the process of drafting the mitigation plan to take root. The purpose of such meetings is to deliberate on the provisions of the Disaster Management Act and their place in the mitigation planning. In addition, the meetings are effective in analyzing the potential hazards and the impacts of the risks on the community facilities and infrastructure. Essentially, the objectives of the regular meetings is to come up with necessary mitigation measures for the identified hazards, identify available resources and apportion the responsibility for averting the dangers and impacts of the risks.
The involvement of the public, and in this case the community, is an important step in the realization of a mitigation plan. The community is given a chance to share ideas and opinions on the bets methods of averting hazard risks. The involvement of the community can be enhanced through public forums, posting on the websites and sharing media releases. In so doing, the committee can bank on the feedback from the community in formulating the mitigation plan. Encouraging people to actively take part in the formulation provides an opportunity for questions and suggestions. Further, feedback is also provided by the people that are most affected by incidences of hazards and risks. Moreover, the use of public participation is important in sharing and pooling of the various resources at the community’s disposure. Essentially, public participation provides the requisite good will from the public and prevents instances of blackmail and sabotage to the planning process.
Stage 2: Risk Assessment
A hazard mitigation plan can only be effective if the possible risks within a community are thoroughly assessed. This process allows for the identification of the hazards as well as the profiling according to their location and impacts. In addition, the likelihood of the hazards occurring is based on past occurrences and the magnitude with which they occurred.
Profiling of Hazards
The profiling of the imminent hazards is restricted to those that have a significantly likelihood of occurrence and is sourced from the regional hazard mitigation plan. In Atlanta city, the probability of each identified hazard is determined using a vulnerability matrix that incorporates the probability and potential impact of the hazard. The impact is derived from the magnitude of the hazards and the past loss of life and property from similar hazards. The risk ratings for hazards are categorized as high, moderate, or low probability.
One of the key objectives of formulating a mitigation plan for any city is to identify the hazards that its community is most vulnerable to. It is only after hazards are identified that they can be averted or their impacts reduced. Possible methods of hazard identification include interviewing the general public for signs of occurrences of different hazards. Moreover, experts from different fields of expertise and research can be effective in identification of different hazards within a certain jurisdiction. In addition, journals and records detailing past events can be an important source of information regarding the likelihood of certain hazards occurring. Finally, the use of internet in identifying hazards is increasingly gaining prominence and Atlanta is no exception in this method.
The nature of hazards that pose a great risk to the people of Atlanta is natural and technological owing to the geography and nature of the city. It is therefore wise for the committee to first list the risks and categorize the same depending on their impacts and likelihood of occurrence. Despite having identified many hazards in the city, the report focuses on the risks of flooding, tornadoes and hazardous materials which are most likely to occur.
Flooding is a phenomenon that results from the excessive runoff from abnormally high precipitation and can occur after thunderstorms, rainfall or hurricanes. Flooding is one of the main natural disasters in Atlanta and results to massive loss of life and property (Leavesley, 1997). In Atlanta, most of the flooding is as a result of thunderstorms and hurricanes that form in the Gulf of Mexico as well as in the Atlantic Ocean. Due to the difference in the landscape of the city, the flooding is usually not uniform and the flat lower areas witness the highest amount of flooding. The upper parts experience floods along the rivers while the lower areas such as metro Atlanta witness valley floor flooding which is more devastating.
Flooding in the city of Atlanta normally occurs along the Apachicola river system within the city. There are attempts to control the river flooding through construction of dams which reduce the likelihood of the flooding occurring. It is only during very high precipitations that river flooding occurs after attempts to increase the spill flow have failed. Since the rivers fall within the city, Atlanta is highly likely to be affected by river flooding as has been experienced in the past. In addition, the lower elevations of the city are also at risk of experiencing flooding since the geography allows for lower water infiltration and thus leading to the incidence of flooding.
Although floods do occur along the river systems, it is well controlled by the authorities. However, flooding on the lower elevations resulting from heavy rains is quite common. The fact that flooding in the city is caused by both river and arterial flooding makes the probability of the flooding to be at moderate levels. This is because flooding continues to affect the people even when it has been controlled from the river sources.
The vulnerability of the people to the floods is ranked at between low to moderate levels owing to the fact that river flooding is controlled. In 2009, a flood during the month of September directly affected about 20000 homes and businesses and resulted in the death of 10 people. It is estimated that a low to moderate flood along the river system would affect more than 15000 people living of the coast of the rivers. If the metro Atlanta were to be affected by a flood, then companies such as Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines would suffer huge losses due to the destruction on their equipment and buildings.
Atlanta Georgia has a history of devastating flooding that leads to huge losses of life and property. In 1998, the city experienced severe thunderstorms that then brought about flooding that not only affected the city but the entire state. In 2009, a flood in spring led to the declaration of the state as facing a disaster due to the magnitude with which it occurred. Ion the same year, another flood led to the loss of property worth more than 500 million dollars and claiming more than ten lives.
The city has continued to benefit from actions of the Watershed management Department such as rain garden installations. The department has also constructed a number of bioswales specifically near Rosa Burney Street. The effect of these mitigation measures is a reduction in the impact of the flooding as well as the vulnerability of the community. In addition, the city council has put up dams along the rivers to reduce the amount of river flooding in the city. The combined actions both from the county and from the city have helped in mitigating the effects of flooding in the city.
A tornado is a collection of a violent mass of air that rotates at high speeds while maintain contact with the ground and a cloud. Tornadoes are natural phenomena caused by the abnormally violent thunderstorms when the lower atmosphere has unusually warm and humid condition. Although they vary in size and intensity, tornadoes pose great threat to the communities, infrastructure and businesses of a city (Clements, 2009).
Tornadoes occur all over the city with most of the tornadoes reported happening in metro Atlanta. The state of Georgia is notorious with tornadoes as more than 1450 tornadoes have been reported over time. Tornadoes are mostly likely to occur during the months of March, April and may as past records have shown. However, they are can occur at any given time of the year including during the months of winter.
The tornadoes are most likely to occur during the three months of March, April and May. However, this is only from historical records and has no scientific backing at all besides the observed pattern of occurrence. Due to the past incidence of occurrence, tornadoes are highly probable to occur in Atlanta and pose imminent risk. They are therefore categorized as high risk hazards.
The city is highly vulnerable to the impacts of tornadoes due to the magnitude with which they occur. The most effective mitigation measure for tornadoes is evacuation after the tornadoes have been detected. In 2012 for instance, eight were reported in the city resulting in losses of more than 12.64 million dollars. Although loss of life during tornadoes is rare, there are numerous injuries to the community as people are being evacuated. Nonetheless, tornadoes have the potential of killing people as evidenced by the tornado of 2000 which resulted in the death of six people and the damaging of more than 320 homes in Atlanta city.
There is a long history of tornadoes in the city of Atlanta dating from the first inhabitants. In fact, Atlanta is one of the cities that is most affected by tornadoes in the United States and this is evidenced by the magnitude of losses. Although the magnitude of the tornadoes is usually low, they occur on a regular basis leading to evacuations from prone areas.
The most effective mitigation process of tornadoes is early warning and evacuation of people from areas that are most prone. This calls for the early detection of the possibility of tornadoes to ensure that the information reaches the community well in advance thus averting the hazard before it happens. Stopping the tornadoes altogether is an impossible task and the city can only adapt to the phenomena through such measures as evacuations. The city, through its administration has continued to help families that have been evacuated and giving them relief food.
Stage 3: Developing the Mitigation Plan
The nature of the mitigation plan for Atlanta city is solely dependent on the outcome of the risk assessment process and the potential abilities of the Atlanta community. The goals as well as the specific objectives of the mitigation plan should focus on the identification of viable steps in reducing the impacts of risks through the formulation of a prioritized strategy.
Goals and objectives
The main goals of the mitigation plan are in line with those of the regional hazard mitigation p0-lan and include: protection of life and property; increased public awareness; improving partnerships; support emergency services; enhancing planning activities as well as preserving natural resources. The above goals can only be achieved through the partnership with all relevant departments and stakeholders including the community. In addition, the city must be willing to develop the mitigation plan locally for it to be most effective.
Identifying and Analyzing Mitigation Actions
Every city is required to identify and prioritize possible actions that can reduce natural hazards by use of mitigation planning. The mitigation committee must be flexible enough to work with other departments to prioritize the identified mitigation actions. The goal of this process should be the reduction of the city’s vulnerability to the identified hazards. Every action should be put through a cost benefit analysis to rank the projects as well as considering the availability of funds, viability of technology and environmental soundness.
Prioritize Mitigation Actions
Every mitigation action should be able to solve the problem that it was designed to solve (Adeola, 2012). The prioritization of the actions is due to the limitation of funding and resources and therefore the most prioritized actions get full funding for example. The process of prioritization is done through the processes of cost benefit analysis and simple listing. In addition, the feasibility of a mitigation action is dependent on the environmental soundness of the project and the appropriateness of technological use. The projects that have the most benefit to the community usually receive full funding while those that have moderate benefits may receive partial funding.
Atlanta city has various resource avenues which it uses to provide the requisite funding for mitigation actions. The general funds coupled with utility revenue may be used to initiate mitigation actions throughout the city of Atlanta. Moreover, the city may look for sponsors and donors to fund its mitigation projects. One such example is to encourage organization to take up funding of mitigation actions as their corporate social responsibility. When the projects are funded by the city, the amount and types of projects funded are documented according to Atlanta’s policy.
Stage 4: Implementation and Monitoring
After the mitigation actions have been identified, the next step is the implementation of the actions as designed. The responsibility of monitoring the project is bestowed upon individuals or authorities to ensure the timely completion of the projects. In Atlanta city, the project will be put under the supervision of the Public Works Department with the director taking personal responsibility. As the overall supervisor, the director will get reports from the other supervisors regarding the timely implementation of the projects within their jurisdiction.
The department of Watershed Management will be responsible for ensuring the construction of dams along the river systems. In addition, the director will be tasked with the timely allocation of resources to facilitate the implementation of the various projects. The supervisors will maintain regular contact with eth Hazard Mitigation Committee for any queries arising from the implementation of the projects. The committee will also, in consultation, with the supervisors, review the plan and consider aspects that may require changes to the overall plan.
Before the prepared plan is adopted for implementation, the committee has to submit the same to the leadership at Fulton County. The leadership of the county must then approve (or disapprove) the plan and confirm that it conforms to the Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan of Fulton County. It is the requirement of the Disaster Management Act that cities update their Hazard Mitigation Plans after every five years. The stakeholders in the city of Atlanta must at all times be involved in the planning process and the actual implementation of the plans. However, the participation of the different stakeholders is through representation by designated contacts that can represent their interests. The representatives selected to the planning team are required to monitor and maintain the progress of the HMPs at all given times.
FEMA. (2006, June 15). Introduction to Hazard Mitigation: IS-393.A. Retrieved from FEMA: http://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/IS/IS393A/Word/IS393.A-Lesson2-final.doc
Rovins, J. &. (2009). Effective Hazard Mitigation: Are Local Mitigation Strategies Getting the Job Done?
Carmona, R. H., & PHS Commissioned Officers Foundation for the Advancement of Public Health. (2010). Public health emergency preparedness & response: Principles & practice. Landover, Md: Public Health Service.
Leavesley, G. H. (1997). Destructive water: Water-caused natural disasters, their abatement and control. Wallingford: International Association of Hydrological Sciences.
Clements, B. (2009). Disasters and public health: Planning and response. Amsterdam: Butterworth-Heinemann/Elsevier.
Adeola, F. O. (2012). Industrial disasters, toxic waste, and community impacts: The health effects and environmental justice struggles around the globe. Lanham, Md: Lexington Books.
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