04 Mar Hazard Mitigation Plan
A draft of our FEMA Hazard Mitigation Plan is now open for public comment. The public comment period will run for four weeks and is an oppertunity for the public and elected officials to weigh in on how Williamstown plans to assess, prepare for, and reduce risk from, natural hazards in our community. Once the comment period has concluded our partners at Berkshire Regional Planning Commission who have been spearheading this project will submit our plan to both the Commonwealth and FEMA in Washington for approval.
You might ask, what is the importance of this planning document? This is an important plan, required by the federal government, that helps communities assess what threats their natural environment presents to life, property, and economic prosperity. Approved plans also allow communities to be eligible for funding for hazard mitigation and recovery. In fact the grant received to relocate residents of The Spruces after Hurricane Irene was only possible because Williamstown participated in an approved regional plan. This process is a locally focused update of that older document.
According to FEMA a hazard is defined as “an event or physical condition that has the potential to cause fatalities, injuries, property damage, infrastructure damage, agricultural loss, damage to the environment, interruption of business, or the types of harm or loss.” Hazard mitigation is defined as a “sustained action taken to reduce or eliminate the long-term risk to people and property from hazards and their effects.”
The Federal Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 mandated that all localities prepare local hazard mitigation plans to be eligible for future FEMA funding from the newly established Pre-disaster Mitigation (PDM) grant program and for the existing post-disaster Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), the latter of which is a mainstay of the FEMA grant programs.
This Multi-Hazard Plan is an update of the Berkshire County Hazard Mitigation Plan, dated November 5, 2012, a regional plan in which the Town of Williamstown was included with 18 other Berkshire County municipalities. Geographically this current plan update is a plan involving a single municipality, the Town of Williamstown, Massachusetts. During the development of this plan other hazard mitigation plans in the region were consulted, including the communities of Adams, Cheshire, Clarksburg, Lanesborough and New Ashford. The City of North Adams, the Town’s eastern neighbor, has not developed a Hazard Mitigation Plan. Additionally, the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) reports for the Towns of Adams and Lanesborough were consulted.