The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

May 31, 2012

Assessing risks to keep community safe, justify funding

(Continued)

MANKATO —

 And emergency managers, emergency responders and area law enforcement agencies aren’t the only resources needed for an accurate assessment, he said. Business owners and residents are also needed to help identify risks.

Hosmer listed what Homeland Security refers to as the five “critical life line sectors” to describe things everyone depends on: power, water, communication, transportation systems and emergency services. A major disruption to any one of them, by a natural disaster or some deliberate incident, could result in what would be considered a serious risk.

About 85 percent of the state’s critical infrastructure — such as fuel and electricity distribution, power production, and cable and telephone communications — are controlled by private businesses. That’s why their input is important, Hosmer said.

“We need to get the community’s help to understand the risks and our vulnerabilities,” he said. “Those are the people who really know.”

Once potential risks are identified, there is a four-step process, which the state describes as its Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment, that is used to describe each risk with a number.

A tornado, a disaster easily understood by anyone who has lived in the area during the past 10 or 15 years, was used as an example.

The first step is to determine the probability that a tornado will hit a certain area. If it’s likely to happen within the next year, the risk will receive a higher number on a scale ranging from one to four. If the event is expected to happen within the next decade or longer, it receives a lower number.

What resources the area has to respond to the disaster are considered for the second step. If a large tornado hits a city and “massive” help will be needed from state and federal agencies, the number is higher. A low number is given to a small tornado that causes damage that can be dealt with within a few days and with little state help.

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