Multi-hazard risk tool aims to help Buncombe County

Emergency personnel and town planners and managers in Buncombe County have a new online tool for analyzing natural hazard risks and their potential costs.

The Buncombe County Multi-hazard Risk Tool was introduced to emergency responders and government officials from Asheville and nearby communities by Todd Pierce of RENCI at UNC Asheville at a March meeting to discuss the county’s Multi-jurisdiction Hazard Mitigation Plan.

The web-based tool allows users to view information about the risks of natural hazards, including floods, landslides, fires, dam breaks and winter storms, in specific areas. A user who wants to know the flood risks in the town of Black Mountain, for example, will learn that 446 land parcels, or about 1,740 acres, sit in the 100-year floodplain. Users can also view a map that displays multiple layers of geographic information about an area of inquiry, including roads and other critical infrastructure, current and projected land use, and sensitive or vulnerable populations.

The tool can generate reports showing the total number of tax parcels at risk by each hazard and the total assessed market value. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requires the county to provide these data as part of its updated hazards mitigation plan.

The multi-hazard risk tool uses data from a variety of trusted sources, including census data, recorded deeds, satellite and aerial photographs, and hazard layers generated by state geologists and hydrographers.

Pierce said that the system is an experimental prototype and the risk reports it generates should be considered drafts, rather than final products, until all county planners have accepted the underlying risk models. Pierce developed the tool in collaboration with RENCI staff at Europa Center in Chapel Hill and the Buncombe County Emergency Operations Center.

The site is password protected and not yet intended for use by the general public.

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