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Dane County Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan

What is Hazard Mitigation?

Emergency Management Cycle (Prevention-Mitigation - Preparedness - Response - Recovery)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) defines hazard mitigation as, “any sustained action taken to reduce or eliminate long-term risk to life and property from natural hazards.” Another way to understand hazard mitigation is as the prevention component of the emergency management process.

  • Preparedness activities are the emergency plans, training, drills, and exercises that individuals, communities and first responders participate in on almost daily basis. These are things done to get ready for an emergency or disaster before it happens.
  • Response is the short-term, emergency actions taken to address the immediate impacts of a hazard.
  • Recovery is the longer-term process of restoring the community back to normal or pre-disaster conditions.
  • Mitigation activities are actions that will prevent or eliminate losses, even if an incident does occur. Mitigation can reduce or eliminate the need for an emergency response and greatly reduce the recovery period.

This may sound complicated, but we all do many of these things on a daily basis. Consider the example of a family taking their car on a road trip in the winter months. Examples of the hazards of highway travel might include vehicle breakdown, inclement weather, or a traffic crash.

  • Preparedness activities would include purchasing auto insurance and keeping the policy current, maintaining the vehicle so it is in good operating condition, bringing warm clothes, jumper cables, and a shovel, and having a cell phone on the trip.
  • Response activities might include putting on the warm clothes and using the cell phone to call for towing service if the vehicle breaks down or calling 911 if involved in crash.
  • Recovery would be getting the vehicle repaired and back on the road after a breakdown or crash.
  • Mitigation would be assuring that everyone in the vehicle wears their seatbelt while the vehicle is in motion. This is a specific action to assure that if a crash does occur, the occupants of the vehicle are protected and their risk of serious injury is reduced. Another example would be to cancel or postpone the trip if hazardous winter weather is imminent. This action would eliminate exposure to the risk altogether.

These same concepts apply to community level hazard mitigation planning. Mitigation planning is a process for county and local governments to identify community-level policies and actions that will reduce the impacts of natural hazards.

Why is Natural Hazard Mitigation Important?

Most people who live or work in Dane County have been affected by natural hazards in one way or another. Dane County and its residents are vulnerable to a variety of hazards including extreme temperatures, severe winter weather, tornadoes, and floods. These extreme weather events seem to be occurring more and more frequently, often with disastrous results. In fact, many experts believe that the heavy rains, strong thunderstorms, and tornadoes that struck the upper Midwest in the summer of 2008 are a sign of the future trends. The frequency and severity of future weather extremes is difficult to predict, but the trend seems clear. Six of the fourteen federal disasters declared for Dane County have occurred in the last ten years. In fact, according to National Weather Service records, eight of the ten most costly weather events to affect Dane County have occurred since 2000. Combined, these ten events alone account for an estimated $181* million in property damage, crop loss, and governmental response and infrastructure repair costs.

Date Event Property Damage
($ Million)
Crop Loss
($ Million)
Total
($ Million)
June, 1993 Flood $12.6 $10.0 $22.6
May, 1998 Severe Storms $3.1 $0.15 $3.3
June, 2000 Flood $6.1 $3.2 $9.3
Summer, 2002 Drought $0 $4.4 $4.4
June, 2004 Tornado $1.5 $0 $1.5
August, 2005 Tornado $34.3 $.75 $35.1
May, 2006 Hail $5.6 $0 $5.6
July, 2006 Flood $10.0 $0 $10.0
August, 2007 Flood $6.8 $5.0 $11.8
June, 2008 Severe Storms and Flooding $13.5 $64.4 $77.9

As dramatic as these figures are, they do not tell the whole story of damages caused by natural hazards in Dane County. In addition to these large events, almost every year there are smaller, isolated weather events that cause localized property damage and losses significant to the people affected.

* Loss estimates provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center.

Hazard Mitigation Plan

Tornado approaching a local residential district

The rising costs associated with disaster response and recovery have focused the attention of federal, state, and local governments on addressing natural hazards before they occur. Obviously, torrential rains and tornadoes cannot be prevented from occurring. Planning for natural hazards and implementing mitigation measures, however, can reduce the impact of such events when they do occur. Emergency response and recovery costs can be reduced. Property damage and monetary losses can be reduced. Personal injury and loss of life can be reduced. The economic and social impact on the community as a whole can be reduced.

In 2005, Dane County and thirteen local units of government within the county collaborated in a planning effort to develop a Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan. The plan was prepared by the county’s Department of Emergency Management under the direction of County Executive Kathleen Falk and the County Board’s Public Protection and Judiciary Committee. The flood-related elements of the hazard mitigation plan were developed in 2004 through a separate process.

Cleanup after a flood

These plans were updated and combined in 2009, building off of the framework of the previous versions. Information in this plan will be used to help guide and coordinate mitigation activities and decisions for local land use policy in the future. Proactive mitigation planning will help reduce the cost of disaster response and recovery to the community and its property owners by protecting critical community facilities, reducing liability exposure, and minimizing overall community impacts and disruption. The plan is intended as a plan of action, identifying a wide range of options to reduce the county’s vulnerability to natural hazards – before the next disaster occurs.

The plan is divided into 6 chapters, 13 appendices, and 39 annexes as follows:

  • Executive Summary and Table of Contents
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction
    This chapter contains background information regarding the planning scope and federal planning requirements.
  • Chapter 2 - Planning Process
    This chapter describes the planning process used to develop a hazard mitigation strategy including how local units of governments, stakeholder groups, and members of the public were involved.
  • Chapter 3 - Dane County Profile
    This chapter contains background information and a profile of Dane County, including geographic and demographic information.
  • Chapter 4 – Risk Assessment
    This chapter describes the threat of 13 natural hazards – dam failure, drought, flood, fog, hail, landslide/sinkholes/erosion, lightning, severe cold, severe heat, severe winter storm, tornado, wildfire, and windstorms. This chapter has four sections. The Hazard Identification section explains how the natural hazards were chosen to be profiled in this plan. The Hazard Profiles describes the nature of and major impacts of these hazards. The Vulnerability Summary lists the overall property, populations, and critical facilities exposed to the hazards. Finally the Capability Assessment describes those plans, policies and procedures that the County has already in place to mitigate hazard impacts.
  • Chapter 5 – Mitigation Strategy
    This chapter describes the goals, objectives, and actions that Dane County will take to mitigate the hazards as described in Chapter 4, and the process used to review, select and prioritize viable mitigation alternatives.
  • Chapter 6 – Plan Implementation and Maintenance
    This chapter describes the plan adoption process, how the plan will be implemented, maintained and updated every 5 years in compliance with federal planning regulations.
  • Appendix A - Mitigation Objectives
    This appendix contains the detailed action steps regarding how Dane County will implement the recommendations of this plan, and ultimately make progress towards meeting the plan’s goals.
  • Appendix B - Mitigation Alternatives in Dane County
    This appendix contains background and reference information on mitigation strategies, and the common alternatives that could be used in Dane County.
  • Appendix C - Plan Participants
    This appendix contains the list of all Hazard Mitigation Planning Committee members and their contact information.
  • Appendix D - Planning Process Documentation
    This appendix contains materials that document the planning meetings, public meetings, and other activities that occurred during the development of this plan.
  • Appendix E - Public Participation Plan
    This appendix contains a separate plan used to involve the public during the creation of this plan.
  • Appendix F - Public Workshop Questionnaire
    This appendix contains the public workshop questionnaire used to gather input from the public regarding hazard issues and priority hazard mitigation strategies in Dane County.
  • Appendix G - Critical Facilities Map
    This appendix contains maps of the critical facilities within Dane County.
  • Appendix H - 2009 Goals Revision
    This appendix contains a table illustrating how Dane County’s goals for the 2009 plan update were revised from the 2004 plan.
  • Appendix I - Objective Prioritization Table
    This appendix contains a table of commonly used mitigation strategies utilized in Wisconsin, annotated with Dane County’s planning team and citizen priorities.
  • Appendix J - Funding Sources
    This appendix contains an explanation of existing program and funding sources available to Dane County and its jurisdictions that could be leveraged for funding hazard mitigation projects and programs.
  • Appendix K - References
    This appendix contains material referenced in the creation of the Plan.
  • Appendix L - Records of Adoption
    This appendix contains the adoption records of this plan.

Multi-Jurisdictional Planning

The plan was prepared as a multi-jurisdictional plan. All 61 local units of government in the County were invited to participate in the planning process. The decision whether or not to participate in this process was a local decision, based on local community needs. Thirty-nine local governments have opted to participate in this effort.

Map of Dane County Municipalities

Each of these municipalities has completed a local hazard assessment and has identified mitigation projects to be performed locally. You are also invited to review and comment on attachments to the County plan for these localities:

Opportunities for Input

Members of the community have a very important role in this process. Please visit our feedback page if you have any questions or comments that you would like to send.

Additional Resources

Resources for Participating Governments

Links