By Deb Gau POSTED: June 27, 2009
IVANHOE – It’s a matter of priorities, SRDC development planner John Shepard said. What kinds of emergencies are most likely to happen in Lincoln County, and how should city, township and county organizations prepare for them?
Shepard and members of a disaster mitigation planning team from Lincoln County have been working together for about a year to try and identify some of those priorities. Now, residents of Lincoln County are getting a chance to give their feedback as well.
About 10 people, including representatives from the cities of Ivanhoe and Arco and Lincoln Lyon Murray and Pipestone Public Health, filled out surveys at an open house held Thursday at the Ivanhoe Community Center. Responses from the surveys will help determine what kinds of disaster preparations are most needed in the county, Shepard said. Surveys will also be mailed out to individual residents.
“Lincoln County is one of the last counties in the first round of drafting” disaster plans in the region, Shepard said. The process is ongoing in several southwestern Minnesota counties, he said.
In working together, the planning team and the Southwest Regional Development Commission had created a list of possible emergencies, their severity and how likely they are to occur in Lincoln county. Shepard and Norm VanOverbeke, of Lincoln County Emergency Management, said the group ranked hazards like tornadoes, hailstorms and infectious diseases as highest-risk. The surveys asked respondents to rank the importance of preventative measures like building tornado shelters or stockpiling emergency medical supplies.
Shepard said the survey results will be used to put together an All Hazards Mitigation Plan for Lincoln County – a kind of master plan for the preventative measures the county plans to take. Shepard said the mitigation plan is a requirement for certain kinds of FEMA improvement grants.
People present at the open house had a variety of concerns. Talk of public health turned to issues like preventing agricultural disease, or responding to outbreaks like the H1N1 strain of flu. Eloise Hauschild said rural township residents were concerned about building up the county’s infrastructure.
“If we get a lot of rain, our roads will go out,” Hauschild said. Bridge repairs were also a big concern.
Van Overbeke said there was also a need for more tornado sirens and other improvements in emergency weather systems.
“We’ve got to make sure people understand the weather,” he said.
VanOverbeke and Shepard said the next few months will be devoted to getting public feedback and drafting a hazard mitigation plan to present to local government officials.
[Original Saturday 27 June 2009 in the Marshall (MN) Independent.]