Washington State University

Developing the Hazard Mitigation Plan

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The Process of Developing the WSU Pre-Disaster, All-Hazards Mitigation Plan


Step One - Pre-Planning Organization

These organizational activities were undertaken simultaneously immediately following receipt of funding under this application:

First Activity - recruitment and hiring of dedicated staff for this project.

While the Emergency Management Coordinator under the Office of Business and Finance will be the lead for day-to-day management of the planning process, and DGSS will provide daily coordination, the first formal action under the grant was to recruit and hire project personnel. These will include Project Assistants to assist in the development of the Hazard Inventory and Vulnerability Assessment data acquisition process as well as to compile the data acquired, and  graduate student assistants to collect those data. A time slip position to support the Emergency Management Coordinator for the duration of this project was also hired.

Second Activity - broadening participation.

Participation of a broader array of WSU personnel will need to be engaged to complete the actual planning process. One of the first efforts of the original working group was the identification of key individuals or positions and the formation of a WSU standing Hazard Mitigation Planning Committee (HMPC) to serve as advisors, program liaisons, and critical connections for the actual hazard mitigation planning initiatives undertaken over the course of this planning project. This step is critical and complicated by the nature of academic organizations, including WSU. While the institution has one name and one overarching administration, the various facilities and units across the state are managed and directed by a diverse set of administrative units, colleges and divisions operating semi-independently of each other. All elements must be represented and all viewpoints included to create a mitigation strategy and plan that will be truly effective.

In addition to others who will be identified as part of this stage of the planning process, these "planning partners" will likely consist of representatives from:

  • WSU's current Emergency Management Committee
  • President's Office/Government Relations
  • Office of the Provost
  • Vancouver Chancellor's Office
  • Tri-Cities Chancellor's Office
  • Spokane Chancellor's Office
  • Officeof Vice President for Business Affairs
  • Office for the Vice President, Information Systems
  • Office for the Vice President, Student Affairs
  • Office for the Vice President, University Relations
  • Office for the Executive Director for Planning and Budgeting
  • Office of Capital Planning and Development
  • College of Agriculture, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences
  • University Extension
  • College of Engineering and Architecture
  • College of Sciences
  • College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Office of Business Services
  • Office of Grant and Research Development
  • Office of Environmental Health and Safety
  • Department of Facilities Operations
  • WSU Police
  • City of Pullman Police and Fire
  • Spokane Interdisciplinary Design Institute
  • Associated Students of Washington State University
  • WSU Division of Governmental Studies and Services

Once identified and convened, the HMPC assumed responsibility for representing the multitude of views and concerns from throughout the WSU System that would affect development of mitigation strategies, prioritization of potential projects and associated planning activities. The role of the HMPC will also include the more precise identification of the timing of long term planning activities, the solicitation of input and comment from the public, WSU partners and the University community as contemplated herein, and coordination of all other activities necessary to complete the current planning process and establish a focal point for all on-going future planning activities and updates with all the various elements involved.

Third Activity - development of a) a process to acquire and review all existing Hazard Inventories and Vulnerability Assessments (HIVA) available for all locations of WSU facilities in the state and b) to the extent such information is not available, a process for acquiring such information.

With WSU facilities in all 39 counties of the state, this will be a complicated process. As much of the data collection as possible will be accomplished through acquiring existing plans, HIVA documents and other localized hazard assessments at all applicable sites. Due to the rural and isolated locations of many WSU facilities and the varying states of progress by counties and other jurisdictions on planning activity, readily existing HIVA may not be available. In these instances project staff will work with site staff, local and county representatives to acquire the needed information through on-site hazard analysis. For example, a review of the current Washington Enhanced Hazard Mitigation Plan shows no references to WSU, WSU facilities, or hazards facing WSU. It is also known that Whitman County, in which the parent WSU campus is located, has completed  a county plan.

Step Two - Engagement of the Broad University Community

Following formation of the HMPC, the next stage of the process will involve the preliminary engagement of the greater internal WSU community. Because of the breadth and diversity of both WSU activities and WSU presence across the State of Washington, it will be critical to engage the larger WSU community early in this preliminary stage of the planning process. County Extension Directors, Directors of University Research locations, the Chancellors of the Vancouver, Tri-Cities and Spokane campuses, and Directors of the WSU Learning Centers, as well as Deans of the various WSU colleges, the WSU Facilities office and undoubtedly others will need to be notified of the planning process and asked to participate through the identification of WSU facilities, activities and workplace locations. This first round of contacts will also call for the preliminary identification of significant research activities, partnerships and citizen-engagement activities. In order to facilitate this ambitious engagement process, members of the HMPC, DGSS, and the Office of Business and Finance will conduct meetings with affected WSU personnel (and others) in each of the nine Washington Homeland Security Regions.

Step Three -Statewide HIVA for WSU Facilities

Building upon the procedures developed in Step One and the university-wide preliminary involvement in the identification of assets, connections and hazards developed as a product of Step Two activities as described above, the Division of Governmental Studies and Services will accomplish the actions necessary to create a comprehensive risk assessment (HIVA) for all WSU facilities throughout the state. This process will focus on the natural hazards that can affect WSU, but will also include man caused and technological hazards.  In total, over sixty significant WSU entities have been identified, representing at least one WSU facility/location/activity in each county of the state and in most principal population centers. As criteria are established for analyzing existing or developed hazard inventories, it is anticipated that ultimately significantly more than sixty sites that should be included in the plan will be identified during the Step Two identification process described above.

44 CFR 201 suggests use of existing state and local risk assessments to identify hazards. Preliminary review of existing risk assessment resources for preparation of this application has shown us that the HIVA process will require more original analysis and research of the hazards and hazard histories of many of the site locations for WSU facilities than would be either anticipated or desirable. The dispersed nature of WSU facilities, statewide, the fact that existing plans (including the existing State plan) are too general in nature to identify specific hazard issues affecting WSU and the fact that in many of the more rural locations of the state no planning has been done at all will require significant fact-finding work to accomplish this planning project. This more complex and detailed process to create even the basic risk assessment as indicated by 44 CFR 201 makes the overall process more labor intensive and time-consuming.

Use of students as temporary employees to acquire existing HIVA information or to develop a number of localized, site specific HIVA where such information does not readily exist will serve three important purposes. First, the use of trained and qualified students (graduate and perhaps some undergraduate) will further the University's goal of student engagement in field research. Second, use of students with ties to communities across the state for this function will provide a "multiplier effect" which will begin the crucial process of citizen engagement in the planning process. Third, while properly trained and supervised students will contribute positively to a quality process in accomplishing the survey and research, the use of student temporary employees will help keep down the costs associated with this phase of the planning process.

As the HIVA is taking place and concurrently with the acquisition of data, potential dollar losses to the identified vulnerable facilities will be assessed using data internal to the university. Once prepared, this information will be critical in establishing a basis for ranking the priority of mitigation activity for one facility over another based on the dollar value, importance and criticality to the university's mission, and overall vulnerability to the hazards facing each facility.

Step Four - Internal and External Comment and Feedback

The data collected through the processes described above will be the subject of both internal (within the University) and external comment and feedback as a part of this phase of the planning process. The first element of this Step Four process will be the circulation of (at least geographically selected portions of) the collected data to all liaisons, Campus Chancellors, Deans, College Program Directors and others as appropriate. A request for review, candid evaluation, and input as to accuracy and completeness will be a part of this process. This feedback from within the university will allow further refinement of the data. Following this internal review and feedback, each liaison will be asked to coordinate external feedback from the appropriate city or county emergency management agency, and with the Local Emergency Planning Committee, to obtain feedback with regard to the accurate and appropriate identification and description of assets, critical infrastructure, citizen and partner connections, and potential hazards. Input will also be sought from research partners and others as deemed appropriate.

The product of this stage in the planning process will be a refined and reasonably complete data set that will form the basis for the on-going planning activities. Another product of this phase of the process will be the establishment of connections between the WSU planning and mitigation activities and other, non-university entities having responsibility in the state for planning and mitigation activities.

Step Five- Development of Mitigation Strategy and Priorities

Concurrent with the HIVA process and as data is acquired and reviewed as indicated in Step Four, the Emergency Management Coordinator will develop a preliminary document that contains a listing and discussion in compliance with 44 CFR 201.6 of assets, communities, hazards/risks and hazard mitigation options for each location identified in Steps Two and Three above. It should again be noted that while this effort will primarily focus on natural hazards, it would also address technological and man-caused hazards such as power failure, hazardous materials releases and terrorism. In this respect, the WSU Annex will represent an important expansion upon the existing Washington State Enhanced Hazard Mitigation Plan, which only addresses natural hazards.

In addition, our review of the existing State Plan suggests that the WSU process will identify additional elements for inclusion in the State Plan with regard to natural hazards as well. For example, the State Plan does not currently recognize volcanic activity as a natural hazard in the communities of Pullman and Yakima, both of which host significant WSU activities. The eruption of Mount St. Helens in May of 1980 provides a graphic example of the historical and potential impact of such volcanic activity on these communities and the WSU facilities therein. As a consequence of ash-fall from that eruption, the WSU main campus was closed and classes canceled for one of the few times in the university's history. The impact on the community of Yakima, and the WSU facilities located there, was even more severe, as several inches of ash blanketed the area.

As part of this continuing process, using the HIVA and the input from various WSU representatives, in coordination with local and county input, a draft strategy for mitigation will be developed. This strategy will include goals and objectives for prioritizing the mitigation process amongst WSU facilities as well as specific plans for reducing potential losses as identified by the HIVA. Another critical part of this step will be to determine how priority mitigation projects will be funded. Internal options available include use of existing University funds for minor projects or placing projects on the priority list for future allocations for major, capital projects. External options include requesting specific state mitigation support or seeking Federal funds through FEMA or other sources as appropriate.

The draft plan will also include a process for regular review and updating of the plan; methods for monitoring the implementation of the plan and managing projects that come out of the planning process; and a process for reviewing and achieving goals as identified in the mitigation strategy. The plan will also clearly identify how the WSU Annex plan will integrate with the state plan and the local plans in those areas where such exists.

Step Six - Engagement to Refine and Prioritize Options

The hazard mitigation proposals generated by the project staff and HMPC at the central-university level under Step Five will then be circulated for comment and input from the wider WSU community to include Directors of County Extension offices, Research and Learning Center Directors, the previously identified Planning Liaisons, and such others as are deemed appropriate. After this "internal" review and comment, this discussion of potential mitigation activity will also be shared with previously identified external actors (e.g., LEPCs), in the manner described in connection with Step Four, above. This input will again be used for improvement and refinement of the hazard mitigation strategy and plan materials. Finally, formal packages for use in structured processes of citizen input and review will be prepared for each of the nine Washington Homeland Security Regions. These packages will contain elements of the HIVA as well as discussion of potential mitigation strategies and priorities that affect WSU facilities in each region. WSU Extension facilities in each of these regions will publicize the availability of these packages for review by the public.

The DGSS Staff, in cooperation with WSU Extension in each Homeland Security region will host public comment-taking events. In addition to providing the basis for public comment and input into the WSU planning process, these public events will serve as the vehicles for dissemination of disaster preparedness and hazard mitigation information for use by citizens and by officials associated with local and tribal governments. Input from citizens and local government officials obtained as a part of this process will influence the finalization of a listing of potential mitigation activity, along with priorities for these activities, to be included in the WSU Hazard Mitigation Plan.

Step Seven -Comment and Input on Draft Plan

It needs to be made clear that input from all "planning partners" will be ongoing throughout the process to culminate in a draft plan. At all stages of the plan development process and prior to submission, the drafts of the plan (or appropriate sections) will be circulated to the University community statewide for review and input. Incorporating these revisions as appropriate, a Final Draft Plan will be prepared for submission.

Step Eight- Drafting the WSU All-Hazard Mitigation Plan

Based upon the all activities and input described above, the Coordinator will compile a Draft WSU Statewide All-Hazard Mitigation Plan incorporating the requirements as specified in 44 CFR 201.4

Step Nine-Submitting the Draft Plan

The Final Draft WSU Statewide All-Hazard Mitigation Plan,  will be submitted to the State Emergency Management Division and then from them  to FEMA for review, comment and input.

Step Ten - Finalization and Submission

Such modifications or revisions as are called for will be made, and a WSU All-Hazard Mitigation Plan will be submitted for final review and acceptance by FEMA. The final WSU All-Hazard Mitigation Plan, in addition to augmenting the existing State Enhanced Hazard Mitigation Plan, will serve as a resource and foundation for risk assessment and planning activities undertaken by counties, communities and neighborhoods across the State of Washington. The connection between the planning process, Washington citizens and WSU Extension - carefully fostered during the development of this plan - will serve as a conduit through which WSU can provide both baseline information and significant assistance to local efforts to develop additional plans.

Emergency Management, PO Box 641045, Pullman, WA 99164-1045, 509-335-7471, Contact Us