Council Adopts Hazard Mitigation Plan

OCEAN CITY – An update of the town’s hazard mitigation plan will allow Ocean City to retain its eligibility for federal assistance programs.

On Monday, resort officials approved a five-year update to the Town of Ocean City’s hazard mitigation plan. Emergency Management Planner Bob Rhode said the changes have been reviewed by both the state of Maryland and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“We have forwarded it to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, they have put their stamp of approval on it …,” he said. “They are just waiting the adoption of a resolution.”

Every five years, the town is tasked with updating its hazard mitigation plan, which identifies Ocean City’s long-term strategies for reducing disaster losses and breaking the cycle of repeated damage. Planning and Community Development Director Bill Neville said the plan not only allows the Town of Ocean City to secure mitigation grants but meets the requirements of the town’s community rating system, administered by FEMA.

“It supplements that program by adopting a set of responses and plans associated with the flood risk in particular,” he said. “So that keeps us from having to do a flood plain management plan that would otherwise have to be adopted separately.”

Working with Smith Planning and Design and members of hazard mitigation planning committee, efforts to update the plan began last spring. The process, Neville said, also included a public survey.

“That was our way of incorporating new concerns, new risks,” he said. “And our emergency services group helped put together a new section on emerging infectious disease as a risk to the community. That didn’t used to be in our plan, and now after our experience with COVID it’s been documented and included and is part of our response to that risk.”

Rhode added the updated plan included new standards, which will be implemented in April.

“One thing to keep in mind – which we did with this plan, through planning and zoning and our vendor we use – in April of 2023 the entire standards will change to the hazard mitigation plan …,” he said. “This has been updated to those standards. Not that there won’t be changes needed in the future, but we have made sure that was done to coincide with the changes being proposed by the feds taking effect, I believe, April 20.”

Officials told the Mayor and Council this week they were ultimately seeking approval and adoption of the updated hazard mitigation plan, which will be added to the town’s website for review.

“If we can get it approved prior to April 1, it keeps it from having to go through another review cycle with the state and FEMA,” Neville said.

With no further discussion, the council voted unanimously to approve and adopt the 2023 hazard mitigation plan.

Neville added that the plan complemented other plans adopted by both Worcester County and the state of Maryland.

“After reviewing the final project, I’m very pleased with the fact the consultant we were working with had incorporated a lot of our suggestions and ideas and had synced it up with the hazard mitigation plan that has been adopted by both the state and Worcester County,” he said. “That integration with all the other plans is a guideline that FEMA wanted us to do, and it has been accomplished with this document.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.