This week, Berrien County, Michigan, and Tennessee-based BOLDplanning moved forward with their collaborative efforts to update the County’s existing Hazard Mitigation Plan, or HMP. HMPs, as FEMA routinely expresses, are “key to breaking the cycle of disaster damage, reconstruction, and repeated damage.” In fact, the National Institute of Building Sciences now estimates that every dollar invested in mitigation saves six dollars in prevented damages (up from four dollars in previous years). 

To get the ball rolling in Berrien County, plan stakeholders were invited to attend a virtual HMP Kick-off Meeting on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. The online meeting had nearly 60 participants, including representatives from all participating Berrien County jurisdictions, BOLDplanning (namely Emily Long, PCP and Karla O’Grady, PCP), and the public at large. With all questions pertaining to local hazard mitigation addressed, the plan update will be completed over the next few months. 

An excerpt taken from the County’s website explains its approach to hazard mitigation planning as follows: “In our assessment of local hazards, we classify them into different types, which helps us to compare these hazards and helps us to develop an all-hazards emergency plan – meaning we develop a basic plan that addresses what needs to be done no matter what the hazard is and then refine specific things we may need to do for our most prevalent hazards. This approach makes the planning process efficient, reasonable, and manageable.”

By updating its HMP (last drafted and approved September 2012) and gaining plan approval from FEMA, Berrien County and its participating cities, villages, townships, and municipalities—40 in total—will be eligible to receive certain types of hazard mitigation disaster assistance, emergency, and non-emergency. 

As in the past, the updated HMP will cover four primary types of mitigation actions to reduce long-term vulnerability: Local Plans and Regulations, Structure and Infrastructure Projects, Natural Systems Protection, and Education and Outreach Programs. And, as mentioned on the County’s website, such common mitigation actions may include the following: 

  • Enforcement of building codes, floodplain management codes, and environmental regulations
  • Public safety measures such as upgrades of roadways, culverts, and dams
  • Acquisition or relocation of structures, such as purchasing buildings located in a floodplain
  • Acquisition of hazard prone lands in their undeveloped state to ensure they remain so
  • Retrofitting structures and design of new construction such as elevating a public building
  • Protecting critical facilities and infrastructure from future hazard events
  • Mitigation, disaster recovery, and Continuity of Operations (COOP) planning
  • Development and distribution of outreach materials related to hazard mitigation
  • Deployment of warning systems
  • Drainage system upgrades

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Berrien County, it is located in the extreme southwestern portion of the State of Michigan, bordering Lake Michigan and the State of Indiana. According to the U.S. Census Bureau Quick Facts (2019), it is home to 153,401 people.

Congrats on a great start to this important project!