When Cleveland County, Okla., submitted its five-year hazard mitigation plan, it was reduced from more than 500 pages down to around 150 pages, thanks to a reduction in requirements of certain information.
County hazard mitigation plans are updated every five years, identifying any completed projects, ongoing projects or projects that are on the wish list.
This year, Cleveland County, Okla., submitted its updated five-year plan and found the task much less difficult than previous times. The plan beginning in 2020 is around 150 pages while the 2014-2019 plan was a good 500 pages.
That’s because some of the superfluous language and details were not required this time by FEMA, according to David Grizzle, Norman, Okla., emergency management director. “Trying to get a plan through FEMA before was an arduous task,” he said. “I mean, it’s a five-year plan and you normally have to start two years before the end of your [previous] plan and sometimes it takes two to three years to get the plan approved. It’s a ridiculous process.”
He said changes in guidance and personnel have streamlined the process and eliminated a lot of the details of what’s necessary in a plan. “A lot of the stuff that was previously required in plans had nothing to do with what mitigation projects your jurisdiction would like to see done,” Grizzle said.
He said that previously, the plans required “massive amounts of demographics and geography” and statistics that weren’t pertinent to individual mitigation projects the jurisdiction wanted to focus on. “I’m not saying some of that would not be applicable, but the depth of it was ridiculous,” he said.
The Cleveland County plan is multijurisdictional, although a couple of jurisdictions decided to submit their own individual plans. “There were some infrastructure projects that are new and some that are recurring, like safe room programs, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA] radio programs, outreach programs, outdoor warning siren programs,” Grizzle said. “Some jurisdictions may have something unique to their jurisdiction that they need help funding.”
The plan includes basic information from the state and county, guidance from each and then the projects each jurisdiction wants to have included in the plan as money becomes available. Many of the projects in the Cleveland County plan overlap among various jurisdictions.
“It could be infrastructure, or various other projects to help mitigate the effects of future disasters and that includes public outreach, Grizzle said. Other projects include procuring a NOAA weather radio, where through a 75/25 cost share process, the recipient pays a fraction of the cost of the radio.
All the projects in the plan are eligible for funding, but the priority is set by the jurisdictions in terms of what is reasonable to pay for. They still have to pay 25 percent of the 75/25 cost share, and that can be a lot. Grizzle said his applications for a safe room sat five years before it received funding.
“If you have a $20 million project, you have to remember that’s a 25 percent match you have to come up with,” he said. “So, it’s the availability of mitigation money as it relates to what the city looks at what’s achievable,” that determines timing for funding.
“Some of the stuff is more long-term, and so it takes a while to get funding for it,” Grizzle said.
The projects must be permanent improvements and not just something that would be considered maintenance. “Usually it’s a sustainment-type project,” Grizzle said. “You wouldn’t get a hazard mitigation grant just to go down and clean out your drain, that would be considered normal maintenance.”