Updated Hazard Mitigation Plan Gets Town Council Approval

The Town Council approved an update of the Town’s Hazard Mitigation Plan, which was approved by the State and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as well.

The plan is designed to reduce or eliminate risk to people and property from a range of hazards, including wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, winter storms and flooding.

The Hazard Mitigation Committee, comprised of Police, Fire, Highway, Building and Planning staff, held several meetings starting in January to update the plan, which was last updated in 2010.

“This is a federal mandate to be eligible for future grant opportunities,” Comprehensive Planner John Vogl said at Monday night’s Town Council meeting. “This document is very much an encyclopedic document. It follows a federal template every town in the State follows. There are no mandates attached.”

The Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission moderated the meetings, helping the Committee to identify the community’s vulnerability to each hazard and to propose new strategies to potentially mitigate or reduce future damage.

Former Fire Chief and Hazard Mitigation Committee member Al Sypek told the Council at their April 4 meeting that the town must update their plan every five years to qualify for grants through FEMA for non-emergency mitigation items “that might cause the Town to respond repeatedly because of poor design or codes.”

Sypek said top priorities identified in the plan include upgrading the Town’s radio communication system and installing emergency access lanes in the Musquash Conservation Area.

“If you look at Lake Massabesic in Manchester, they have fire lanes that are gated and they serve as hiking and horse trails. These access lanes can serve two purposes, both for public safety and recreation,” he said.

“Radio communications is a safety issue and should be addressed immediately,” Councilor Jim Butler said.

Fire Chief Darren O’Brien said the Department has been collaborating with Highway staff and Police to investigate infrastructure in town and determine what existing infrastructure the Town could build upon.

“We hope to have something for this upcoming budget cycle,” he said.

Recalling an agreement with AT&T to allow the Town to install an additional antenna to serve the Fire Department on a tower located behind Town Hall, the Council directed town staff to investigate the original site plan for the tower to see if the agreement exists.

The Council asked for updates on the progress to address the telecommunications weakness at their meetings on May 2 and June 6.

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