There are two main categories of disasters: natural, which are flooding, severe storms, health pandemics, etc.; and human-caused, which are chemical spills, active shooters, train derailments, water main breaks, etc.
Each type of disaster or event goes through the same basic cycle:
Event: Something bad happens.
Response: Efforts to save lives and minimize property damage, and efforts to make the bad stuff stop, if possible.
Recovery: Getting life back to normal.
Mitigation: Actions that are taken to reduce or eliminate long-term risks to people and property from this event, should it happen again.
Planning and Preparedness: Determining how to improve response for the next time around, and ensuring that the improved tools to do so are in place.
NRPC focuses mainly on planning and mitigation with communities. NRPC also supports local communities during response and recovery during larger-scale events. This means we work with communities to identify vulnerabilities and then prioritize actions to eliminate or lessen the risk. It means arming people with information and training opportunities and providing platforms for information to be shared. It means creating opportunities to test and practice emergency plans. It means being a resource for towns so that the Northwest region can be stronger and more resilient.
Local Emergency Managers and Coordinators
Local Emergency Management Directors, EMDs, and Coordinators, EMCs, play an important role in their communities—it’s also a state law that each municipality have an Emergency Management Director or Coordinator. The role of EMD defaults to the town’s executive officer if an EMD or EMC is not appointed.
EMDs and EMCs oversee and spearhead planning and preparedness activities for their community, usually in coordination with the town manager or select board. During emergencies, EMDs and Cs are a critical link between the town and the outside world.
NRPC understands that most EMDs and Cs are volunteers with many other responsibilities and obligations. We will work with you and your community leaders to identify and prioritize actions that make sense for your town. We’ll provide you with tools, templates, and expertise along the way.
Local Emergency Management Plan
Local Emergency Management Plans (LEMPs) are the most basic planning and preparedness tool for municipalities.
The state requires each municipality to complete, adopt, and submit LEMPs annually after Town Meeting and before May 1. An electronic template is available on Vermont Emergency Management's website or by contacting NRPC. It’s important to carefully review the LEMP each year. Email addresses, phone numbers, and sites to be checked are all likely to change over time.
LEMPs replace LEOPs in 2019--There is a new format, two formats, actually; one is long and the other is short. Talk with Shaun if you are not sure which is best for your community. The new format is a shift from the LEOP and we're here to help you through it!
Local Hazard Mitigation Plans
Mitigation is any action that reduces or eliminates long-term risks to people and property from disasters. Local Hazard Mitigation Plans, or LHMPs, are based on historical data and address vulnerable areas in a community that are likely to be impacted by natural hazards; and are a tool to identify cost-effective solutions that solve repetitive problems. LHMPs must be adopted by the municipality and approved by the state and by FEMA every five years.
LHMPs prioritize greatest risks-- agreed upon by the public and by public officials—and where to focus resources. Solutions range in complexity from replacing undersized culverts, for example, to raising critical infrastructure above the floodplain.
Having an LHMP makes towns eligible for grants such as the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, Flood Mitigation Assistance, and the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Competitive Grant. NRPC has created a template and a streamlined process to help towns complete LHMPs and get them approved.
Go-To Info for Municipalities
Things your community should have:
Appoint an Emergency Management Director, Coordinator, or both.
Update the Local Emergency Operations Plan (LEOP) every year.
Complete a Local Hazard Mitigation Plan every five years.
Adopt river corridor protection in land use bylaws and in municipal plans.
Identify a local shelter for your community. Have written agreements in place with shelter partners. Keep supplies on site (bottled water, first aid kit, extra toilet paper, sanitation supplies). Check supplies and agreements annually.
Put an emergency preparedness line item in the town budget (to pay for things like the stash of toilet paper, sandbags, or gas for the generator).
Have mutual aid MOUs in place before they are needed. Review them annually.
Engage residents! Use tools like Front Porch Forum, or a town newsletter to remind neighbors about shelter locations, family preparedness, and to keep them apprised of what your community is doing to be better prepared.
Sometimes the state will “activate” the Regional Planning Commissions if the state believes there could be a widespread impact from an event. RPCs then reach out to each municipality to collect local situation reports. We attempt to contact the people listed on your Local Emergency Operations Plan using a combination of VT-Alert, email, and phone. We send your municipality’s information to Vermont Emergency Management. The state uses the information to direct resources to the areas that need it most and to determine if Vermont qualifies for a disaster declaration.
Document, Document, Document
It’s important to document everything that you can during an event. Take pictures! Use a computer or a notebook to record the work done during response and recovery. Take more pictures! Record expenditures, staff and volunteer time during response and recovery. Save time cards and receipts.
Example: “April 29, 2014: Janet Jones, resident volunteer, cut and removed fallen tree limbs on Main Street from noon to 4:00 p.m. using the town’s chainsaw to clear the right-of-way for emergency vehicles.”
For more information on emergency planning, please contact Shaun Coleman at (802) 524-5958 or by email: SColeman at nrpcvt.com.