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After years of discussions, Kandiyohi County Board gives stamp of approval to hazard mitigation plan

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local Willmar, 56201

Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- A document that lays out plans for handling all natural and manmade disasters in the county was approved Monday by the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners.

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The "hazard mitigation plan" spells out specific ways to prevent loss of life and property as well as how emergency agencies would react to disasters.

The thick document was years in the making.

In 2003, the commissioners took action to start the process and hired the Mid-Minnesota Development Commission to work with townships and jurisdictions and emergency agencies to develop maps, goals, objective, strategies and timelines for responses as well as potential sources of funding and estimated cost it would take to achieve the mitigation goals.

"The process started many years ago," said Don Ericson, Kandiyohi County director of emergency management. The project was undertaken as part of a 2000 requirement to obtain federal disaster funding.

"This plan is a requirement to get those funds," said Matt Johnson, from Mid-Minnesota Development Commission, who coordinated the project.

"It was another hefty planning process," he said.

The report includes a list of potential hazards, like floods, violent storms, droughts, wildfires, infectious disease, structural fire, hazardous materials, water supply contamination and terrorism.

Overall objectives that would cover the whole gamut of disasters include complying with the "national incident management system" standards, developing a reliable communication system and developing adequate emergency operations centers and disaster recovery shelters.

The plan includes a risk assessment and profiles for every jurisdiction, Johnson said.

Some of the strategies are simple documentations of common-sense plans, like providing shelter, or advice on where people could find shelter, for large group events in the case of a storm.

Educating the public is a strategy listed on most of the hazards, whether it's preventing infectious diseases by educating the public about immunization programs, or preventing structural fires by providing educational information about inspecting wood burning chimneys, electrical systems and smoke detectors.

When it comes to terrorism, the mitigation strategy advises a review and assessment of "current risks and vulnerabilities and potential targets for terrorism within the county."

A portion of the plan will not be accessible to the public and "will be for emergency management eyes only," said Johnson. The plan will "not be widely distributed" and would be an addendum to the county's emergency operations plan.

County Attorney Boyd Beccue recommended that that the confidential sections be clearly marked, with the appropriate statute attached explaining why it's not being made available for public viewing.

Beccue said there is an assumption that all county documents are public, but he said there are allowances to keep some confidential.

Johnson, who has worked with other counties to develop their hazard mitigation plans, praised Kandiyohi County for their participation in the project. "Kandiyohi County is very well prepared," he said. "You guys are doing the right things here."

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