BRATTLEBORO -- Even if Tropical Storm Irene had not pummeled the state with 10 inches of rain on Aug. 28, 2011, it would probably be time for Brattleboro to take a fresh look at its Hazard Mitigation Plan.
The last plan was approved in 2010, before Irene caused millions of dollars in damage around Brattleboro and, since the storm, Brattleboro Planning Director Rod Francis said there is much more attention being paid to how municipalities should prepare for disasters, whenever they occur.
"I think Brattleboro recovered well from Irene, and today if you look at the Whetstone, it’s green and wholesome, and you can forget how quickly it can change," Francis said. "But I think the lessons from Irene are still fresh in people’s minds and it’s a good reminder about how important it is to have a plan."
The Brattleboro Planning Department will host the meeting Monday, June 9, at 6 p.m. in the Selectboard Meeting Room.
The town is updating the 2010 plan, which eventually will have to be approved by the Selectboard, Vermont Emergency Management and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.
In order to be eligible for FEMA funding after a disaster the town is required to have an approved plan in place.
Interim Town Manager Patrick Moreland said the meeting Monday is a chance for the town to both talk about some of the updates to the plan, as well as to gather input from residents who may have thoughts about how the town can better prepare for disasters.
"The update of this plan will allow the town to continue to be eligible for future mitigation funding from FEMA," Moreland said. "Local participation in the development of the plan is important and we look forward to working with the public to help us identify and prioritize actions that will protect life and property."
Francis said that while Irene opened the town’s eyes to the impact flooding can have on the community, the Hazard Mitigation Plan addresses all of the potential natural and human-caused disasters that could cause the loss of human life and property loss.
The Planning Department also works with the police and fire departments, the Department of Public Works and the Windham Regional Commission in putting together an updated plan.
Francis said ice and snow storms are probably the most common, and damaging, occurrences, but train accidents, structure fires, plane crashes, school safety emergencies and tornadoes and hurricanes are all addressed in the plan.
The plan is put together to identify the hazards facing the town and to attempt to lay out strategies for reducing the risks.
The local planning process is important when applying for FEMA mitigation funding to try to protect the town from future events.
After the draft plan is completed it will be presented to the Selectboard and then sent to Vermont Emergency Management, which Francis expects will happen at the end of the summer.
Once it is sent on to FEMA it will probably take additional time, Francis said, to get a final plan in place.
"The meeting Monday gives us an opportunity to discuss with the community what steps we are taking to address these hazards, and what plans are in place," Francis said. "We want to control land use and development so we are limiting the hazard impact and addressing existing issues when we can."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.