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Westmoreland County, Pa. seeks to minimize impact of potential disasters

Paul Peirce | Tribune-Review

Westmoreland County public safety officials are working with municipalities to draft an update to its hazard mitigation plan to reduce long-term risks caused by hazards or natural disasters such as floods, landslides, tornadoes or dam failures.

The county’s Department of Public Safety has scheduled a public meeting for 9 a.m. Wednesday in the courthouse in Greensburg as part of updating its 5-year-old, countywide plan.

The plan addresses a variety of potential natural and man-made hazards that could affect county residents and property.

“As the costs of disasters continue to rise, governments and citizens must find ways to reduce hazard risks to communities,” according to the county website that details the goals.

Hazard mitigation is important so communities can make stronger and safer repairs and reconstruction after a disaster, officials said.

“We’re very eager to get the public’s input to help us create a detailed plan that will address a variety of potential hazards that could affect some or all of our citizens,” said Chris Tantlinger, the county’s hazard mitigation officer.

The new report will contain information on concerns about hazards associated with Marcellus shale well drilling.

“Obviously, the well drilling is something considered today as opposed to five years ago, and the environmental hazards associated with it, such as handling potential chemical spills on highways to disposal sites,” Tantlinger said.

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Every county is required to have a plan. Westmoreland will coordinate with local municipalities to identify disaster risks, assess capabilities and formulate a strategy to reduce vulnerability.

“The belief is that local municipalities know particular hazards within a community better than anyone else. We collect the information, present it to the state, which presents it to FEMA for approval,” Tantlinger said.

He said the reports allow municipalities to assess particular hazard vulnerabilities, such as flooding, and what actions and mitigations are planned “so that the particular event may not happen again,” he said.

Tantlinger said the updated reports are aimed at preventing repetitive losses, because reconstruction becomes more expensive as the years go by.

Hazard mitigation breaks the expensive cycle of damage and reconstruction costs by taking a long-term view at rebuilding and recovering from disasters, according to the website.

The plan update will ensure that the county and participating municipalities remain eligible for mitigation funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Tantlinger said.

Information about the plan is on the Westmoreland County Hazard Mitigation Planning website, www.westmorelandhmp.com. The site includes an online hazard awareness survey and the draft plan.

The public is encouraged to visit the site, take the online survey, review the draft plan and offer more input on the planning process.


More information is available from Tantlinger at the Department of Public Safety at 724-600-7349 or ctantlin@co.westmoreland.pa.us.

Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or at ppeirce@tribweb.com.