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August 10, 2022

Enhanced hazard mitigation plan on the way

San Benito County officials received a grant to develop updated
San Benito County officials are starting work on a hazard
mitigation plan that will identify likely problem areas in natural
San Benito County officials received a grant to develop updated plan

San Benito County officials are starting work on a hazard mitigation plan that will identify likely problem areas in natural disasters.

County officials recently received a $48,750 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to develop the plan.

“The purpose of the hazard mitigation plan is to reduce or eliminate the long term risk of disasters,” said Brian Tempero, San Benito County’s emergency services manager.

The disaster mitigation plan will identify the dangers in San Benito County and where the impacts might be, Tempero said.

“Probably the number one hazard that is going to be identified is earthquakes,” he said. “San Benito County is the most seismically-active county in the state of California.”

The plan might include mapping fault lines, flood zones and fire zones.

County officials say they will use the information to develop policies that will mitigate the impact of natural disasters.

“If you see a fault line, do we need to have special building codes in the area?” Tempero said. “That’s where the general plan comes in.”

The county’s general plan will be updated for consistency with policies that will mitigate the effect of natural disasters once the hazard plan is complete.

“The core root of this mitigation is to protect the citizens of San Benito County,” Tempero said. “We have 24 months to complete the plan, as per grant guidelines.”

The Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 requires all local governments to have a hazard mitigation plan. The county has had a hazard mitigation plan since the law took effect, but an enhanced hazard mitigation plan is a new federal requirement, Tempero said. The enhanced plan will go into more detail than the original hazard mitigation plan.

“The old one picked out the three major disasters that are potential disasters in San Benito County,” Tempero said, “earthquake, flood, fire.”

The enhanced plan will identify even smaller threats, Tempero said.

“An enhanced hazard mitigation plan does open us up for more grants,” he added. “That’s what’s exciting about us getting the grant.”

Communities built in disaster prone areas, such as flood zones, experience natural disasters on a regular basis, Tempero said. “People are constantly displaced,” he added.

Residents of San Benito County have experienced more than one natural disaster in recent decades. In the late 1990s, there was massive flooding in low-lying farmland, and the Loma Prieto earthquake in 1989 destroyed buildings and caused power and water outages.

County officials regularly prepare for disasters, Tempero said.

“We do year-round training and exercises,” he said.

County officials have also conducted drills to prepare in case of a global pandemic.

“With Health and Human Services, they’ve done pandemic exercises,” Tempero said. “It exercises bringing the necessary medication from the distribution centers to the local points of distribution.”

Other drills also tested actual dispensation of flu vaccinations.

The enhanced mitigation plan will be developed by contractors from Dimensions Unlimited Inc., said Linda Churchill, the county’s clerk of the board.

Dimensions Unlimited Inc. is a consulting firm based in Rio Vista that specializes in disaster preparedness.

Members of the Board of Supervisors approved the contract at the board meeting March 11, Churchill said.

Staff from all departments in San Benito County, Hollister and San Juan Bautista will work with the contractor to develop the plan, Tempero said.

Agricultural impacts will also be part of the plan.

“We’ll be working with the farm bureau,” Tempero said.

Working with local farmers is important, because they are familiar with local hazards since they work closely with the land, Tempero said.

Jessica Ablamsky
A staff member edited this provided article.

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