07.28.2015 The Marmaduke School District is a small district in northeast Arkansas, “out in the rice fields,” as Fulton Wold described it. The district housed grades K through 12 in one building.
In 2006, a tornado hit the school, badly damaging the building. Fortunately, school was not in session, and no one was hurt.
“It just smoked them,” Wold said of the damage. “It’s sad that the event had to happen, but they learned a lesson. They’ve built a nice safe room.”
The Marmaduke experience was given by Wold as an example of the need for school districts to have a hazard mitigation plan.
Wold is the executive officer of BOLDplanning, a Nashville, Tennessee, firm specializing in assisting organizations with the development, testing and maintenance of plans, including hazard mitigation plans.
Along with his colleague, Will Minkoff, Wold spoke at a meeting earlier this month of the Boone County Educational Cooperative Hazard Mitigation Plan. The group is made up of all the school districts in Boone County. Superintendents or representatives of all the districts, as well as North Arkansas Regional Medical Center CEO Vince Leist, were at the meeting, which was held at the Harrison School District’s administration building.
Boone County currently does not have a hazard mitigation plan.
As explained by Wold, who has 15 years experience in mitigation planning, mitigation is money spent up front to save money in the future. Having a hazard mitigation plan, Wold explained, allows the school districts, when faced with a disaster, to have a chance at funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Homeland Security and the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM).
“At the end of the day,” Wold said, “we want to save lives, save property. You have a chance to grab some of that money.”
The meeting with Wold and Minkoff kicked off phase two of the Boone County Cooperative’s efforts to write a hazard mitigation plan. The plan must be submitted and get approval from FEMA. According to a timeline presented by Wold, the final plan will be submitted to FEMA and ADEM on March 26, 2016.
Wold went on to explain that the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program is administered by the state. FEMA would contribute 75 percent of the funds with the remaining 25 percent contributed locally, although Wold said the state often provides 12.5 percent of the local contribution. The funding is appropriated after a major disaster declaration.
There is also the Pre-disaster Mitigation Grant and the Flood Mitigation Assistance Grant, with FEMA providing 75 percent of the funds for both.
Funds may be used for such structural mitigation as building safe rooms, shelters and levees and doing structural refitting.
Wold expressed confidence in helping the Boone County Cooperative come up with a good hazard mitigation plan.
“This is not my first rodeo,” he said. “We’re going to do this right the first time.”
Wold told his audience that Arkansas has a quite a few hazards, including wildfires, floods, tornadoes, even a huge earthquake threat.
“You’re vulnerable to a lot of things you didn’t think about,” Wold said.
Local hazard mitigation plans must be updated and approved every five years, according to Wold, but he assured the group that BOLDplanning would stay on top of it.
“We’ll make sure you stay on the money trail,” Wold said, “and you’re eligible for any money you can get.”
To assist BOLDplanning in writing a hazard mitigation plan, Wold asked the school district representatives to provide him with information on a number of areas, including natural hazards, building and zoning codes, floodplain management, facilities and proposed mitigation projects.
Wold said that BOLDplanning would prioritize hazards based on:
- Ability to mitigate
- Cost to mitigate
- Alternative measures
- Cost effectiveness
Wold asked that information get to him within three weeks.
Wold cautioned that in ranking things, some school districts might rank higher than others in certain categories, but others shouldn’t take it personally.
“FEMA just wants to know if you have an approved plan,” he said.
Wold also said that should a school district want to drop out, the plan would be written so as not to affect the other districts.
Before the hazard mitigation plan is submitted to FEMA, Wold said, there had to be a public meeting in which it had the opportunity to review it and ask questions.