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Emergency services is updating safety plan

North Dakota's Department of Emergency Services firmly believes in the old adage that it's better to be safe than sorry. As part of a Federal Emergency Management Agency directive, the state is in the process of updating its multi-hazard mitigati...

North Dakota's Department of Emergency Services firmly believes in the old adage that it's better to be safe than sorry.

As part of a Federal Emergency Management Agency directive, the state is in the process of updating its multi-hazard mitigation plan.

"We're just at that timeframe," North Dakota DES public information officer Cecily Fong said. "It's time for the update. We started the process in August of this year."

Fong said the emergency services department uses federal dollars to fund a portion of updating the plan.

"The process for updating this was described to me as being a team review," Fong said. "Experts here at emergency services, emergency managers from around North Dakota (and) experts at all state agencies, go through and make improvements."

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The state's strategy addresses 12 potential disasters: communicable disease, dam failure, drought, flood, hazardous material release, homeland security incident, shortage or outage of critical materials or infrastructure, summer storm, transportation accident, urban fire or structure collapse, wildland fire and winter storm.

Fong identified the three disasters most likely to affect southwestern North Dakota as being extreme weather, wildland fires and drought.

"The caveat, though, is all disasters can (affect southwestern North Dakota)," Fong said.

Though hundreds of eyes saw the improvements to the plan, DES has a public comment period, which lasts until Jan. 2, 2008.

The plan is available at www.nd.gov/des . Comments can be submitted through the Web site or by contacting Pam Shrauger by phone at (406) 581-4512.

Fong said the department's hope is to finalize the new plan within the month of January, after the public comment period ends.

A special plan

Along with preparing for a potential emergency, North Dakota's plan also focuses on long-term initiatives and strategies that could help prevent or reduce future losses.

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The plan outlines seven goals which include enhancing public awareness of hazards and mitigating sever summer and winter weather effects on people and property.

North Dakota is one of only six states that has an enhanced multi-hazard mitigation plan, which entitles the department to additional funds from FEMA.

Fong said as a "managing state," when a disaster strikes in North Dakota, FEMA still comes in, but it assists the managing departments.

"We're one of three states who we manage our own emergencies, where in other states FEMA just comes in and takes over," Fong said. "Basically, we're really good at this."

The other two states are Arizona and Kansas.

Fong said the state started multi-hazard mitigation plans in 1989, with updates in 1993, 1995 and 2000.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, FEMA ordered states plans needed to be updated every three years.

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