Area towns seek to identify natural hazards, responses

Flooding, high winds, severe storms — all are serious hazards affecting Wilton and neighboring towns.

To get a handle on the most serious problems, the Western Connecticut Council of Governments is updating the Hazard Mitigation Plan used by towns in its region. The council is made up of the former Southwestern Regional Planning Agency (SWRPA) and it is managing the multi-jurisdictional plan required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This plan keeps participating municipalities eligible for many types of FEMA funding.

Representatives from New Canaan, Weston and Wilton — including representatives from a variety of Wilton town offices including police, fire, planning, and environmental affairs — as well as the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), Northeast Utilities, and South Norwalk Electric & Water (SNEW) gathered for a four-hour workshop in Wilton on Tuesday, Nov. 18. Also stopping in for a portion of the meeting were First Selectman Bill Brennan, state Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26) and state Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143).

Robert Sachnin, a regional planner with the WCCOG, said the focus of Tuesday’s workshop was to “identify hazards and vulnerabilities” facing the towns and “how to mitigate and safeguard against those hazards.”

Public input

Part of this effort includes a Natural Hazard Survey that seeks public feedback regarding natural hazards of greatest concern to area residents, including vulnerable locations and potential mitigation opportunities.

Survey results will be used to help protect the region against the impacts of extreme weather and climate change, providing emergency responders and key decision makers greater understanding of public perception to natural hazards, including vulnerabilities.

“It’s all connected,” Mr. Sachnin said of the workshop, survey, and other aspects of the plan. “The survey gives us the opportunity to cast a wider net, to learn things you can’t get at public meetings.

“These are the people who are directly affected by disasters, and it’s important that their voices are heard,” he said. “The public’s feedback concurrently assists emergency responders, so it’s really a win/win for the community.”

The survey will be available into January online at swrpa.org.

The current Hazard Mitigation Plan is also available at swrpa.org.

In addition to Wilton, Weston and New Canaan, the other municipalities involved in the plan are Darien, Greenwich, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport.

A draft of the updated plan is expected to be completed next spring.