Kirchhefer leads local Hazard mitigation planning

TORRINGTON – Anyone who has dealt with government agencies is well aware of the numerous regulations that have to be dealt with. Preparing a federal hazard mitigation plan can take years, especially in small, rural communities such as Goshen County, where time and money are a premium.
According to Shelly Kirchhefer, Goshen County Emergency Management Coordinator, the updated Wyoming Region 7 Hazard Mitigation Plan should make it easier to gain access to assistance available from various federal emergency agencies, if the need arises.
Cheyenne/Laramie County, as well as Goshen and Platte counties, has had their own hazard mitigation plans in the past. However, the cost and time necessary to update the documents every five years has proven prohibitive for smaller communities. Cheyenne/Laramie County pooled resources and hired a consultant to update a plan in 2013. Goshen’s plan was adopted in 2004, and Platte’s in 2006. Both have expired.
Kirchefer said it is critical that the plans be in place because of the expense of dealing with disasters such as tornadoes and floods.
“Without these plans in place, FEMA assistance could be impossible,” Kirchhefer said. “If the plans have expired, you’re not eligible for pre-disaster funds, that’s why we’re trying so hard to get ours updated.”
Time and manpower are not the only hurdles to completing the HMP’s. Kirchhefer said counties do not have access to much of the required data.
The plans usually incorporate mitigation actions that will eliminate some of the potential hazards. Kirchher cited a park with a lake that had been created in Cheyenne several years ago after flooding, as an example of mitigation to prevent future problems.
In Region 7, Goshen, Laramie and Platte counties, examples of other mitigation plans include establishing a tornado shelter, while another adapted a community center so that, if necessary, it can be used as an emergency shelter.
“Each county looks at the county as a whole, and determines what would fit their communities,” Kirchhefer explained, noting that meetings in Goshen County have included a variety of entities, including irrigation and conservation districts.
The first round of discussions on the current Region 7 plan was held in January 2017. The project was kicked off in February, and the final draft is now available for public review. The document will be available until Sept. 30. The final plan will be forwarded to FEMA
for approval.
The press release accompanying the public review notice reminds the public that efforts to reduce hazard risks are easily made compatible with other community goals, and safer communities are more attractive to employers as well as residents.
It reminds the public that hazard mitigation plans now will provide stronger, safer communities, and will reduce future injuries and damage.
“The Wyoming Office of Homeland Security (WOHS) is utilizing grant funds to comply with FEMA in building local plans,” Kirchhefer explained. “It was determined that it would be easier to have this contracted out by region and then repeat the same process as the plans expired every five years. There was no way for the local county coordinators to write such an extensive plan and then have FEMA approval.”
The plan can be downloaded from this link:
An online survey has been set up to facilitate collection of any comments. Here is the link:
If you have any specific questions or would like to relay your comments in another form, please reach out to the following project leads for each Region 7 County:
• Goshen County: Shelly Kirchhefer, [email protected]
• Laramie County: Jeanine West, [email protected]
• Platte County: Terry Stevenson, [email protected]

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