Yuma has updated its emergency and hazard mitigation plans. During a Sept. 4 meeting, the City Council repealed the previous Emergency Operations Plan, dated 2011, and adopted the 2018 plan.
Fire Chief Steve Irr told the council at a Sept. 3 work session that the city is required to update the plan every few years to qualify for grant funding. The state-approved plan covers an array of emergency events and is used to guide first responders and city officials, he said.
He also noted that the plan is dated 2018 because it was put together last year, but “it’s just getting here.” The plan doesn’t have any dramatic changes; the majority of the changes center on phone number and population updates, Irr said.
State law requires counties and incorporated cities and towns to establish and provide emergency management. According to a staff report, having current, updated emergency operation plans are vital to first responders when assisting the public in the event of a natural disaster, man-made incident, or a local or national emergency.
The purpose of the plan is to provide direction to city departments and supporting agencies to help protect the citizens and property in a disaster, minimize damage and return the community and government to its normal state.
It also provides a starting point in the event the federal government intervenes and/or takes jurisdiction.
This plan has been created in conjunction with Yuma County’s Emergency Operations Plan and the Arizona Emergency Response and Recovery Plan. It calls for mutual aid assistance between Yuma, San Luis, Somerton, Wellton and Yuma County.
The basic plan outlines Yuma’s emergency management structure as well as addresses the organization and duties of a state emergency management system.
The Yuma County Office of Emergency Management is charged with facilitating countywide mitigation and preparedness efforts. In the event of an emergency, Emergency Management would outline the potential hazards for the city, the measures that can be taken to mitigate these hazards and the responsibilities of the various agencies.
The city charter indicates that the mayor would take command of the police and govern the city by proclamation “during times of great danger when an extraordinary local emergency or natural disaster causes or threatens to cause loss of or jeopardizes life or property.” The mayor would be recognized as head of the city government for all ceremonial purposes and by the governor for purposes of military law. Violation of a proclamation issued by the mayor during such times would be considered a misdemeanor.
The plan notes that a disaster is different from routine emergencies, such as fires, accidents and criminal confrontations. A disaster is generally larger in scale and requires the commitment of multiple agencies for an extended period of time.
The plan explains that it’s during these disasters that resources can be depleted and assistance from other agencies becomes necessary. This plan defines the roles and responsibilities during such a situation and provides a framework for coordinating the response of many different departments.
In the event that the city’s response and recovery capabilities are exceeded, Yuma County will provide assistance, and should county resources be exceeded, the state, under the coordination of the state coordinating officer, will provide assistance. The director of the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs is the designated SCO. The Arizona Emergency Response and Recovery Plan serves as a foundation for state assistance.
The council also repealed the 2010 Yuma County Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan and adopted an updated plan dated March 2019. This plan has been prepared in compliance with the federal Disaster Mitigation Act enacted in 2000.
Members of the city’s fire, police and community development departments worked with the Yuma County Multi-Jurisdictional Planning Team to complete the update of the plan.
Mitigation is defined in the plan as “acting to reduce the exposure to the potential effects of a disaster. This could be through enacting or enforcing building codes, educating the public on how to protect themselves from tornadoes, or constructing flood prevention structures.”
The plan is used to identify potential risks to the region, critical infrastructure, costs to repair and/or projects to reduce risk to that infrastructure.
Addressing preparedness, the mitigation plan identifies resources, training personnel and practiced response for disaster situations. The plan explains that the establishment of mutual aid agreements, the provision of training events, and the exercise of the Emergency Operations Plan constitute preparedness.
The plan also addresses recovery following the immediate response to a disaster and points out that the longer term rebuilding of a community is also an emergency management concern. “It is at this point that certain aspects of mitigation may come into play, for in the rebuilding efforts, we must incorporate measures to prevent the recurrence, or lessen the impact of similar events,” the plan states.
Federal law calls for updating of mitigation plans every five years, with each cycle requiring a complete review, revision and reapproval of the plan at both the state and federal levels. A local plan must be approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to receive grant funding from various mitigation programs.
The plan has been approved by the Arizona Division of Emergency Management and FEMA and has now been returned for adoption by Yuma County and the incorporated communities within the county.