Miami Gardens' Hazard Mitigation Plan Research Paper

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City of Miami Gardens is vulnerable to natural hazards, particularly flooding because of the location of the area and extreme weather events like heavy rain. One of the major reasons for these extreme weather events that increase the likelihood of heavy rain and subsequent flooding is global climate change. Global climate change contributes to unprecedented weather incidents through which the earth cools and warms over geologic time. While the city has created canal systems and neighborhood drainage system to help in drainage of water during periods of heavy rainfall, the problem of flooding continues to persist. When flooding occurs, it leads to considerable business disruptions, power outages, and other negative impacts on the community.

A hazard scenario in this area would involve a series of storms that are characterized with heavy rains for several weeks. The city's weather department has issued warnings that the heavy rains will continue for several weeks and will continue to have significant negative effects on the community. The local residents have started evacuating the area for fear of the impact of the flooding and anticipated impacts. Based on target asset inventory and analysis, the flooding will have significant effects on the human population, energy infrastructure, and transportation infrastructure. Therefore, there is need for an effective hazard mitigation plan that incorporates public education and awareness, re-designing the canal systems, and conducting routine training and exercises to determine readiness of emergency response agencies. The other measures include regular inspections of the suitability of evacuation routes and shelters as well as medical facilities, and enforcing building codes to address natural disasters. Notably, these measures require collaboration from various major emergency preparedness and response stakeholders or agencies to assist in mitigating the effects of the hazard.

Hazard Mitigation Plan -- Miami Gardens, Florida Flooding:

Flooding in the City of Miami Gardens can be mainly attributed to the problem of global climate change, which is primarily a change in the state of the climate. Global climate change is caused by internal processes and external factors like volcanic eruptions, solar cycles, and constant anthropogenic changes in land use or Earth's atmosphere. As a natural occurrence through which the earth has cooled and warmed occasionally over geologic time, climate change is a major contributing factor to natural hazards and unprecedented weather patterns. In the past few decades, the frequent and rapid warming of the earth has become a major issue, particularly because of its severe effects like natural hazards. Some of these effects that occur in the City of Miami Gardens include coastal erosion, submergence, and flooding. In Florida, the most vulnerable area to these effects is Southwest Florida because of low topography, subtropical environment, coastal counties, and porous geology ("Flood Risk Assessment," 2014). The City of Miami Gardens is also vulnerable to these effects, especially flooding because of extreme weather events.

History of Flooding in Miami Gardens:

The City of Miami Gardens, which is located in a flat, low-lying area of Miami-Dade County, is not a stranger to natural disasters, particularly flooding. The city experiences flood hazards that range from rainfall from tropical storms to other weather systems like heavy rain events and hurricanes. In addition, flood hazards are partly attributed to the presence of lakes, canals, rivers and other water bodies in the city. Miami Gardens' groundwater is just below the ground surface, which is another attribute that could be linked to the issue of flood hazards.

During rainy seasons, Miami Gardens' canals and lakes are usually full of water and the groundwater table is full and near the surface. When heavy rainfall takes place in the city during the rainy season, the stormwater runoff results in occasional localized flooding because the water had nowhere to drain. Moreover, these extreme weather systems or events forces man-made canals to overtop their banks or get backed up resulting in localized flooding in areas near the canals. The flooding problems can be exacerbated by the likelihood of back up in secondary canals and neighborhood drainage systems ("Flood Awareness," n.d.). Many areas in the City of Miami Gardens have been flooded for extended periods of time because of past flood events like Hurricane Irene in 1999 and No-Name storm in 2000. These flood events caused significant business disruptions, loss of electricity, and other negative effects on the community.

Hazard Scenario:

A series of storms have brought significant and widespread heavy rains in the City of Miami Gardens over the past four weeks. The City is currently experiencing heavy rains because of the slow moving storms and unprecedented warm temperatures. Miami Gardens' weather department has issued warnings that the heavy rains will continue over the next several weeks. The department has also stated that these heavy rains will continue to have significant negative effects on the community because the rains will clog storm drains, saturate soils, and fill local reservoirs. This implies that the strong storm system characterized with heavy rains is likely to result in flooding. The canals and neighborhood drainage systems in the city will be backed up to an extent that the water has nowhere to drain. In light of these warnings and prevailing conditions, some of the local residents have started evacuating the area for fear of the negative impacts like business disruptions and power loss.

Target Asset Inventory and Analysis:

An asset inventory and assessment is part of hazard mapping to provide a clear picture of what the community may lose from an uncontrolled threat. This process also links the immediate and long-term costs of the loss through the use of an appropriate mitigation approach. The major assets to assess include the human population, energy infrastructure, and transportation infrastructure. Flooding in the City of Miami Gardens will have devastating impacts on the area's large population of more than 120,000 people because of its effect on the entire region. Secondly, the hazard will have considerable negative impacts on the energy infrastructure since flooding usually results in power loss in this city. While the energy infrastructure may not have a specific company or critical resource to focus on, power outages brought by flooding contribute to huge losses for businesses in the region. These businesses may be forced to incur extra costs in order to prevent disruptions in their operations. Third, flooding will make it difficult for the affected population to move and affect the provision of relocation and emergency services because of impact on transportation infrastructure. Due to its effects on drainage systems, the flooding will make it difficult for residents to use some of the roads and/or railways in the city.

Mitigation Planning:

Given its location and other factors, the City of Miami Gardens is vulnerable to extreme weather events, especially flooding, which contributes to the need for the development and maintenance of an effective mitigation plan. The main goal of the mitigation plan is to lessen vulnerability to natural hazards from all sources, particularly hurricanes, heavy rain seasons, and other extreme weather events ("The Local Mitigation Strategy," 2012). The first critical area for mitigating the impact of flooding in the City of Miami Gardens is through public awareness and education. This is primarily because the human population within the city is increasingly vulnerable to these weather conditions. Through town meetings conducted by civic leaders, public education and awareness should involve provision of hazard maps to the community, clear identification of evacuation routes, flood zone information, and evacuation shelters.

Secondly, Miami Gardens' policymakers should make changes to the design and development of the city's canal system. While the primary and secondary canals were developed to improve the suitability of the land for habitation, they are sometimes ineffective in removing water to the east and eventually to the Biscayne Bay due to heavy rains. The initial design of the canal system did not incorporate extra development in some parts of the city, which makes their drainage dependent on drainage in the east. Therefore, the canal system should be re-designed and improved to facilitate easy drainage even during heavy rainfall. Actually, this process should incorporate the creation and implementation of a forward pumping system that will complement the slow gravity flow of the canal water ("Working Together," n.d.).

The other mitigation plans include conducting routine training and exercises to determine readiness of emergency response agencies, regular inspections of the suitability of evacuation routes and shelters as well as medical facilities, and enforcing building codes to address natural disasters. The City of Miami Gardens should also make significant investments in dealing with the problem of flooding through the use of federal funding in enhancing resources for emergency responders. The other important aspect of this mitigation plan is fostering significant partnerships between the various stakeholders in emergency response. These stakeholders should establish Mitigation Strategy Working Groups that are mandated with the task of developing and ensuring the implementation of local mitigation strategies. The major stakeholders in this process include the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, Florida Division of Emergency Management, Florida Department of Transportation, the Southwest Florida Water Management District,…[continue]

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