Cook County Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan
Cook Country in northern Illinois serves as the state’s most populous county. By 2018, the county had approximately 5.18 million people. Located Lake Michigan’s western shore, Cook Country covers up to 945 square miles, making it the sixth-largest (Preckwinkle & Barnes, 2019a). Like other counties in Illinois, Cook County faces current and future risks of various natural disasters, such as extreme heat, floods, earthquakes, and droughts. As a result, the Cook County Board (CCB) adopted and approved the updated version of the county’s hazard mitigation plan in September 2019. The Cook County Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan (MJ-HMP) (Preckwinkle & Barnes, 2019b). Despite being touted as the largest-ever disaster mitigation plan to be completed in the country, there is a need to critically discuss the Cook County MJ-HMP’s completeness, hazard mitigation activities, and potential improvements.
Completeness of MJ-HMP
The M-HMP is complete when it comes to identifying, responding, and mitigating a wide range of natural hazards because it includes all elements of what constitutes a significant hazard mitigation plan. Presented in a document, the procedure comprehensively states the problem or rationale, goals, objectives, programs, policies, monitoring and evaluation, adoption and implementation, and update process. In particular, the plan’s mission revolves around identifying risks and corresponding sustainable actions necessary for mitigating the far-reaching adverse effects of natural hazards. Each of these elements is incorporated in the way that they focus on protecting the economy, life, welfare, health, as well as safety of the Cook County residents and community.
In addition to the identified elements of a suitable mitigation plan, the Cook County MJ-HMP is comprehensive, cost-effective, readable, environmentally sound, and developed to open windows of opportunity. The complete aspect of the MJ-HMP involves the fact that it is multi-hazard, internally consistent, multi-objective, and long-term (Preckwinkle & Barnes, 2019a). With these characteristics, the plan allows responsible stakeholder, including the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM), to identify and analyze hazards, conduct goal-oriented probability and vulnerability analyses, undertake different forms of capability assessments: legal, institutional, technical, data, political, and fiscal. Concisely, the completeness of a disaster prevention plan is defined by its ability to capture which hazards to address and pro-active tools to mitigate the impact of each of these natural disasters.
Hazard Mitigation Activities
The responsibility for the whole process of mitigating natural hazards lies with multiple players, including federal, local, and state governments, private property owners, industry, and businesses. Through public-private sector partnerships, individual actors engage in various mitigation activities to contribute to the preparedness, response, and recovery processes (Gerber & Mirzabaev, 2017). The various mitigation activities listed and described in the Cook County MJ-HMP are divided into structural and non-structural. Structural mitigation activities include dam and levee programs or projects that help protect the whole community against flooding, retrofitting any existing structures as a way of withstanding events, and building hazard-resistant systems. On the other hand, non-structural activities comprise tax incentives meant to discourage people from occupying or developing high-risk areas, land use plans, subdivision regulations, and zoning ordinances. This hazard mitigation activities support and align with the Cook County community approach to natural disaster mitigation because residents rely on the key players to provide education and awareness creation programs and adopt and implement measures necessary for protecting life, property, and the environment.
Updating the MJ-HMP
Through their representatives, such as mayors, individual businesses, scientists, and environmentalists, the Cook County community all remain committed to reviewing and updating the county’s disaster mitigation strategy. They achieve this by participating in risk identification and assessment because doing so goes a long way in keeping the HMP current and creating a safe, sustainable, and resilient community. For example, the DHSEM formally requested all participating jurisdictions in 2018, asking them to submit their views regarding any new hazards, their ongoing mitigation efforts, and new mitigation projects. These jurisdictions submitted a letter of intent demonstrating their commitment to the newly introduced MJ-HMP. Therefore, the community is driven by the fact that mitigation revolves around continuous or lifelong learning, flexibility, or adapting to change, risk management, and progress evaluation.
While I find the Cook County MJ-HMP complete, the plan needs some improvements. First, the current is no different from previous projects because it tends to rely on historical data when it comes to determining the frequency and severity of the natural disaster, such as droughts, floods, and fires the county should prepare for. Although the plan includes some current data, I think the developers should emphasize recent scientific findings, including studies that show the possibility of Cook Country experiencing more droughts in the future (McFadden et al., 2019). Second, I think there is a need for the plan to be edited and presented in a more urgent tone to show that the county is anticipating the increased risks of any of these risks (Moore, 2013). While portraying the urgency of a potential natural disaster may be interpreted to mean causing panic, it is one of the incentives that encourage residents to become responsible and proactive. In particular, climate change has emerged as the main factor for natural hazards, which means locals would be encouraged to be innovative, adopt green practices, and avoid development in high-risk areas.
Gerber, N. & Mirzabaev, A. (2017). Benefits of action and costs of inaction: Drought mitigation and preparedness – A literature review. Integrated Drought Management Program Working Paper No. 1. https://library.wmo.int/doc_num.php?explnum_id=3401
McFadden, J., Smith, D., Wechsler, S., & Wallander, S. (2019). Development, adoption, and management of drought-tolerant corn in the United States. EIB-204, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
Moore, R. (2013). Illinois must look ahead to anticipate natural disasters, not backwards. https://www.nrdc.org/experts/rob-moore/illinois-must-look-ahead-anticipate-natural-disasters-not-backwards
Preckwinkle, T. & Barnes, W. (2019a). Cook County Multi-Jurisdictional Mitigation Plan: Volume 1 – Planning-area-wide elements.
Preckwinkle, T. & Barnes, W. (2019b). Cook County Multi-Jurisdictional Mitigation Plan: Volume 2 – Municipal annexes: Countywide mitigation actions. https://cookcountyemergencymanagement.org/sites/default/files/images/Countywide%20Mitigation%20Actions_0.pdf