June 25, 2020

Public comment sought on university's hazard mitigation plan

Campus aerial
Craig Chandler | University Communication

Craig Chandler | University Communication
The University of Nebraska–Lincoln has completed its draft Hazard Mitigation Plan.

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln has completed its draft Hazard Mitigation Plan, and is asking for public comment.

Public feedback is the final step before university approval and submission of the finalized plan to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Mark Robertson, emergency management director for the university, said having a completed plan is paramount to applying for grants to complete mitigation projects.

“Out of the plan, there will projects that are prioritized for grant funding,” Robertson said. “We then have the ability to apply for a 75% match in money on those projects. Those could be anything from early warning systems to addressing critical infrastructure needs that could become problems.”

The University Police Department received funding from FEMA in 2018 to create the plan. It covers a range of natural and human-caused disasters, including flooding, chemical spills, storms and animal disease. A committee of university leadership, along with consultants from JEO Consulting Group, identified possible hazards. Staff, faculty, students and other stakeholders were also given the opportunity to provide insights regarding vulnerabilities, completed projects that have increased campus resilience and future opportunities to further reduce risk.

“There’s truth in that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Robertson said. “If we can shore up some of the issues we’ve identified, and spend a smaller amount of money with assistance from the federal government, then we’re better off if we have a catastrophic event. It’s always cheaper to prepare than recover.”

Robertson pointed to past and current work done by Lancaster County with federal mitigation funds as examples that have positively impacted the city and university.

“The storm water work that has been done along Antelope Valley and the Dead Man’s Run project that is going on right now were to mitigate flooding,” Robertson said. “It’s been clear since that project came through that it has prevented a lot of the flooding we used to see in the past.”

By completing a Hazard Mitigation Plan, the university is leading its peers. Nebraska will be among the first universities or colleges in the four-state FEMA Region VII to have its own plan.

Students, staff, faculty and community members are encouraged to review the plan, provide comments and ask questions during the comment period. The draft plan is available online.

“It’s a requirement of the plan that the public is allowed to see the plan to make comments on it,” Robertson said. “Also, if someone were to look at it and say ‘I think you need to look at this,’ then that is submitted to the group and we can make changes as needed.”

The public review period will end on July 10. Comments and questions can be submitted to the university’s emergency management director Mark Robertson, via email at mark.robertson@unl.edu.