ATLANTA, Ga. -- A large cross section of public and private leaders representing businesses, public agencies, and community groups in the City of Florence have agreed to sign on as South Carolina's first community partners in Project Impact. The program is an initiative of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to develop preventative strategies that will minimize the loss of life and property if a disaster occurs.
The formal public signing ceremony will take place at South Florence High School Auditorium in Florence at 11 a.m. on Friday, June 11, 1999. FEMA Regional Director John Copenhaver, Stan McKinney, Director of the South Carolina Emergency Preparedness Division (SCEPD), and Florence Mayor Frank Willis will sign the formal agreement, as will 19 private partners from the area.
The Project Impact program selects communities that actively involve all sectors of the community including businesses, public agencies, non-profits, and local citizenry in formulating mitigation efforts. Private sector partners represent the diverse nature of Florence's business community including service industries in such fields as health care, communications, banking, and insurance, as well as major manufacturing employers in automotive, petrochemical, and pharmaceutical products.
Florence was nominated by SCEPD for Project Impact consideration in June 1998 with Charleston County, including the City of Charleston, becoming the second South Carolina community nominated in December 1998. Florence has a tradition of active public-private sector efforts and was a finalist for 'All-America City' designation in 1997.
In earlier remarks SCEPD Director McKinney affirmed the new state-federal partnership. "The state of South Carolina is firmly committed to mitigation and the concept of Project Impact," McKinney said. "We're supportive of this innovative idea and believe it has the potential to make a real difference in community risk-reduction."
The City of Florence was selected to join 118 communities nationwide developing Project Impact programs. "These communities have already demonstrated remarkable efforts toward mitigating the potential damage of future storms," said Copenhaver. "By joining Project Impact, Florence is making a comprehensive commitment to reduce its disaster vulnerability."
Florence Mayor Frank Willis hailed the opportunities for local input that the new accord provides. "FEMA recognized that each community is different in its physical make-up, its demographics, its resources, its ability to respond to disasters, and to the types of disasters each community must be prepared to deal with," Willis said. "This is the way that government and business should work."
Located in a region laced with numerous rivers and streams, Florence is subject to many natural hazards including its location in an earthquake zone, storm-related flooding, and tornadoes. The city serves as a major strategic evacuation point for coastal hurricanes.
In recent years the City of Florence has taken several aggressive steps to lessen the effects of disasters, especially stormwater run-off and flooding. A member of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) since 1981, the city instituted a $12.5 million capital improvement program funded by its Stormwater Utility Program. The utility program provides on-going funding to alleviate the area's stormwater flooding problems. In addition, a flood hazard mitigation plan is being developed and a new stormwater drainage study is underway.
The signing ceremony affirms the community's commitment to focus on disaster resistance as the best means to minimize the impact of disasters on people and property. In the last five years, FEMA has responded to nearly 5,000 disasters in 49 states and spent nearly $14 billion in federal disaster relief.