Frankfort, KY -- Local government and private sector leaders in four Kentucky counties are bringing one million people--a fourth of the state's population--into a joint state and Federal Emergency Management Agency initiative called Project Impact to shield people from the ravages of natural disasters.
Henderson/Henderson County and Bowling Green/Warren County are new participants this year in Project Impact: Building Disaster Resistant Communities, which has enlisted more than 1,000 business partners in all 50 states and the U.S. territories and has provided seed money to 200 communities.
On June 1 of last year the Commonwealth of Kentucky and Louisville/Jefferson County joined Project Impact. Kentucky has a population of 3,936,000 and Jefferson County 672,000.
Louisville, the first Kentucky community to participate in Project Impact, is recognized as a national leader in reducing public vulnerability to natural disasters by giving continuing priority to building codes, comprehensive plans, zoning, floodplain management, and disaster preparedness.
Current Jefferson County projects include: elimination of a large hazardous waste site; cost sharing for installation of radios to present hazard awareness programs in public gathering locations; extensive promotion of the National Flood Insurance and Community Rating System programs.
Two FEMA-design "safe rooms" are on the drawing board, one to be included in a model home in the Louisville Homerama in July and the other a retrofit putting a safe room in an existing home for public display. Tens of thousands of persons are expected to view them.
Henderson/Henderson County, with a population of 44,000, appointed a Project Impact coordinator Feb. 9. Team leaders are being chosen and an application for a startup grant is being completed this month.
Lexington/Fayette County, with a population of 241,000, has hired a Project Impact coordinator who will start April 3 and is beginning eight approved projects.
Being purchased and expected to be in operation within 60 days is a "City Watch" alert and notification system, a so-called "reverse 911," to warn the population of approaching danger by telephone. Using 16 telephone lines, the data system can dial selected audiences such as people with special needs, hospitals and schools, designated areas of the county, or the entire county population. Twelve outdoor sirens are now in use and 10 more will be installed.
Other approved projects focus on promoting the use of storm safe rooms, a structural assessment of critical buildings, emergency training sessions for citizens and other public education, and enhancement of an existing flood-proofing program.
Bowling Green/Warren County officials made their decision to enter Project Impact last October. In February of this year they submitted a request to FEMA for the initial funding to be used for a project coordinator's salary and equipment to print materials needed for community education and outreach.
Team members have been enlisted from businesses, community organizations and local governments-all sectors of the community having a stake in making the county more disaster resistant. Warren County has a population of 87,000.
Mike Lynch, Kentucky state hazard mitigation officer, said state officials are strongly encouraging other communities to join Project Impact and will conduct meetings in any interested community. "We want all our people to have the protection that can be obtained in this way," he said.
A state team sets criteria for communities being submitted for Project Impact involvement. "The key is demonstrating pro-active planning," said Pat Trotter, Kentucky hazard mitigation grant administrator. "Communities must develop mitigation plans."
Citizens or public officials get information by calling Trotter at 606-257-8485 and FEMA at 770-220-52...