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SHERIDAN — The age-old adage to “always be prepared” is aged for a reason: it has always been smart to be ready for whatever life may bring.
That is why representatives from Sheridan County and its cities and towns have begun the process of updating the countywide Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan, which is used “to identify activities which if implemented can eliminate or reduce the risk residents of the county face from natural and man-made threats or hazards,” according to the plan’s purpose statement.
At a kick-off meeting last week, representatives from Sheridan, Dayton, Ranchester, Clearmont, the U.S. Forest Service, the fire department, the water treatment plants and the county met with a consulting firm out of Cheyenne to begin discussing the old plan, which was adopted in 2009, and ways to ensure that the new plan will efficiently address hazards in Sheridan County.
“We had great participation from all levels of government. Sheridan County has been really proactive in addressing identified mitigation projects,” Ayres and Associates Project Manager Carrie Chitty said.
Sheridan County’s current Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan was approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 2009 and is set to expire this year, Emergency Management Coordinator Dave Coleman said. Updating the plan — which will include significant public involvement — will allow representatives to evaluate which strategies worked and which ones could be improved in addition to including new hazards in the plan.
“The meeting was a general review of the old plan and a plan of attack on the new plan,” Coleman said.
For example, terrorism, utility failures and communication system breakdowns were proposed as additions to the list of risks, County Public Works Director Rod Liesinger said. The current list of risk factors includes: dam failure, drought, earthquake, flood/flash flood, hail, hazardous materials, landslide, lightning, mine subsidence, tornadoes, severe winter storms and wildfires.
In the plan, each risk factor is ranked on its probability of occurring based on history and potential for future occurrences. Other assessments include potential property, population and land area affected. For example, wildfire, severe winter storm and lightning are all listed as high probability while hail and floods are listed as medium and dam failure and earthquakes are marked as low.
As the plan is updated, each risk factor and its mitigation plans will be evaluated and changed if needed.
The Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan update is being funded with a $28,000 federal grant.
The public is encouraged to participate in the hazard plan update by submitting photographs and personal accounts of hazards such as hail, flooding, fires and winter storms. There will also be a public meeting in October, and residents are invited to visit the Sheridan County website to view and comment on weekly progress updates.
For more information visit www.sheridancounty.com. Copies of the 2009 Sheridan County Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan are available for review in the Sheridan County Commission Office on the second floor of the Courthouse addition.