Planning for future disasters

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Every four years, a multi-hazard mitigation plan is revised to reflect on recent disasters within a county and prepare for potential future ones over the span of the next four years. 

With only two municipalities within Monroe County yet to approve the plan, Monroe County Public Safety Director Kevin Scheibe will soon be submitting the plan for final approval. 

This comes after months of meetings with a planning committee that consisted of one representative of each municipality. The committee’s hard work resulted in a 134-page document. 

The plan consists of five main sections: the planning process where existing plans were reviewed; county profile which notes everything from topography to development trends; risk assessment; mitigation strategies; and plan maintenance. 

“It’s very strategic and well-planned,” Scheibe said. “There were lots of meetings and this wasn’t a one-night thing. This took us several months to get this all revised and up-to-date for Federal Emergency Management Agency approval.”

The main goal of this expansive document is preparedness, Scheibe said. 

“The multi-hazard mitigation plan helps us prepare for future loss of life, property damage and community awareness,” Scheibe summarized. 

The committee updated many aspects of the plan, which helped them to outline 81 different mitigation strategies between Monroe County and its municipalities of Columbia, Waterloo, Valmeyer, Maeystown, Hecker and Fults. 

Perhaps the largest updates Scheibe and the committee noted were disasters over the past four years. Scheibe said these include flooding and severe thunderstorms that caused damage. 

There is one particular revision that stood out in Scheibe’s mind, and that involved the floodplain in the Bottoms. 

“The biggest revision is the updating of the 100-year floodplain down in the Bottoms,” Scheibe said. “(We) updat(ed) the actual residents, how many are actually down there, how many structures we have down there, how many businesses, what’s considered in the floodplain itself, as well as working with the City of Columbia on the new floodplain projections from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.” 

Scheibe said in recent years, flash flooding has become a large problem in Monroe County. In turn, many of the mitigation strategies, such as improving the warning system for flash flooding, came directly from this data. 

“Flash flooding is becoming more of a recurring event for Monroe County than actually, believe it or not, the Mississippi River flooding down in the Bottoms, (and this is) due to our thunderstorms,” Scheibe said. “Unfortunately, the more we develop, the more water runs off concrete into the waterways and it still has to go somewhere.” 

Scheibe said a lot of potential solutions for flash flooding issues will be borne out of each municipality meeting with contractors and the county’s engineers. 

Also outlined in the plan’s mitigation portion, each municipality in Monroe County is advised to install a backup generator at one of its alternative sheltering areas. Scheibe is currently working on a grant for this, but said he hopes to have all generators installed by the end of 2022. 

“I am actively working (for) a generator to be placed in every single community, but I cannot give you the locations yet because nothing is finalized by the state,” Scheibe noted. 

While there are plenty of new mitigations included in the plan, some are ongoing from previous plans, such as continuing to educate the community on disaster preparations and training for first responders. 

“We’re always going to have an ongoing mitigation training … for EMS, fire and police,” Scheibe said. “Every year we get together and we do some big, full-scale exercise which can include a train derailment, earthquake, active shooter (and more).” 

As the Republic-Times reported, every county in the state is required to have a multi-hazard mitigation plan. Without one, schools, municipalities and other entities cannot receive state grants.

As of press time, Columbia and Hecker still need to approve the plan. 

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