WARWICK, R.I. -- The town of New Shoreham (Block Island) escaped with little impact from the March 2010 floods, but the damage and debris left behind on the mainland served as a reminder to officials on the significance of preparing for the worst.
With a hazard mitigation plan set to expire in May 2011, New Shoreham officials tapped the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (REIMA) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for hazard mitigation planning assistance.
Hazard mitigation planning is a process for assessing risks and vulnerabilities associated with natural disasters and strategizing to develop long-term plans for protecting people and property.
“Luckily, we survived the spring floods,” said New Shoreham Town Manager, Nancy Dodge. “However, at the time, we did recognize that with 365 ponds, a high water table and a dam we need to be paying attention to our infrastructure and need to pay attention to our hazard mitigation plan long before it gets to a precarious state.”
FEMA responded with a face-to-face meeting with officials on the island.
The meeting is one piece of an extensive technical assistance and outreach process coordinated by RIEMA and FEMA in response to the spring 2010 floods.
After touring Block Island’s critical facilities and attending the local Hurricane Preparedness meeting FEMA mitigation specialists provided New Shoreham with technical assistance on the hazard mitigation plan update.
“For a small town like ours, located 12 miles from the mainland, our ability to take advantage of technical assistance is somewhat limited,” Dodge said. “Anytime we have an organization with the willingness, knowledge and expertise to provide us with assistance here on the island—we welcome it.”
Following the disaster, planners reached out to the state’s 39 communities and provided support in the form of face-to-face meetings, public meeting participation, courtesy reviews and mapping assistance.
That technical assistance support continues today.
“We are here to complete the mission: to provide hazard mitigation planning support to Rhode Island communities,” said FEMA Region I Regional Administrator, Don R. Boyce.
Under the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (DMA 2K), state, tribal and local governments are required to develop a hazard mitigation plan as a condition of receiving various disaster assistance, including Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM), Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) and Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP).
Approval of New Shoreham’s plan also enables the city/town to gain credit under the Community Rating System (CRS), an incentive program that encourages floodplain management activities that exceed National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requirements. Jurisdictions receive discounted premium rates if they meet three CRS goals: reducing flood losses, facilitating an accurate insurance rating, and promoting the awareness of flood insurance.
“Having an updated, FEMA–approved hazard mitigation plan in place is imperative,” said RIEMA Executive Director, J. David Smith. “We will continue to work tirelessly with Rhode Island’s cities and towns to provide them with the support that they need to get these plans updated and approved.”
FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards