Baldwin County communities are urged to update their hurricane plans

By GUY BUSBY
Government Editor
guy@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 8/12/22

FAIRHOPE — Baldwin County communities need to update their disaster plans to take in lessons learned from recent hurricanes and the need to accommodate continued growth, planners and officials …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Baldwin County communities are urged to update their hurricane plans

Posted

FAIRHOPE — Baldwin County communities need to update their disaster plans to take in lessons learned from recent hurricanes and the need to accommodate continued growth, planners and officials said.

The Fairhope City Council is scheduled to vote Monday, Aug. 22, on a proposal to update the city's Coastal Resiliency Index study. The plan would help community members find strengths and weaknesses in current emergency plans, Jody Thompson of the Auburn University Cooperative Extension Service told council members Monday, Aug. 8.

She said more than 70 Gulf Coast communities have taken part in the index. Fairhope prepared a Coastal Resilience Index in 2017.

"Since then, you have had a more recent storm of record, with Sally," Thompson said. "You've also had staff turnover and implemented a lot of new projects. So, it's a good time to consider redoing the CRI."

Casey Williams, executive director of the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce, took part in the 2017 index project. She said officials and community members went through a drill simulating a major hurricane hitting the region.

"It was a very good exercise," Williams said. "Our storm that we created was the water of Katrina and the winds of Ivan, so we really packed a punch with our storm, needless to say and it was."

She said the drill found where more information was needed about what services would be available after a disaster.

"One of the areas that we really had no information on was your business after a storm," Williams said. "Who's open? Who's not? Critical infrastructure like banks, lumberyards, hardware stores, grocery stores, some of those immediate needs."

She said the chamber contacted businesses that might provide essential services after the drill. Businesses were asked if they had plans to deal with reopening after a storm. Other questions included whether stores had generators and if the ATMs at banks would be available for customers.

Williams said one lesson from recent major storms, such as Hurricane Michael hitting the Florida Panhandle in 2018, is that a disaster can cause many businesses to fail.

"It's been identified that after catastrophic events only six out of 10 businesses reopen," Williams said. "The base of our community are small business owners and retailers. It's hard to imagine that out of every 10 businesses in Fairhope, four would not be able to reopen and that is because of the plans that are needed for I.T., infrastructure redundancy, the proper insurance all of those different things."

She said the chamber is also working with Daphne and Spanish Fort officials to update the index.

The index could also help Fairhope qualify for the Community Rating System, which could help reduce flood insurance rates in some areas, Thompson said.

Erik Cortinas, Fairhope building official, said city officials have discussed joining the CRS.

"At this point, I've talked to colleagues around the county. We had decided internally, and we've been to several training courses and things, so we are interested in joining the CRS in the coming year and that is something that we had planned," Cortinas said.

He said a member of the Building Department would be designated as CRS coordinator to oversee the program.

Council President Jimmy Conyers said the council would consider a resolution to approve updating the index at the next meeting Aug. 22.

"It doesn't sound like there's any negative of going through the process of doing the exercise or at least checking this out and then if you want to move to the next step, at least the paperwork for the first time," Conyers told council members.

Stay in the know on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Sign up for our free email newsletter.

* indicates required