Update of flood maps a learning experience for county EMD as well as property owners

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 6/2/21

HERMANN — Gasconade County Emergency Management Director Clyde Zelch is becoming immersed in one of the less-enjoyable aspects of his job — updating the county’s flood-plain …

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Update of flood maps a learning experience for county EMD as well as property owners

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HERMANN — Gasconade County Emergency Management Director Clyde Zelch is becoming immersed in one of the less-enjoyable aspects of his job — updating the county’s flood-plain map.

The effort also is making some property owners aware of the significance of those flood-plain lines on a map. Zelch last week updated the County Commission on his work in redrawing the flood-plain map, a task that happens every 10 years. The map was redrawn in 2011.

The EMD told how the effort of the last map update caught one property owner in particular by surprise. Part of that owner’s property — a detached garage and part of the house — fell within the newly reconfigured flood plain. 

They learned of this as they were preparing to sell the property. The significance of being in a flood plain is one of insurance costs. In order to obtain financing for property within a flood plain, flood insurance must be purchased. According to local officials, flood insurance can be expensive, compared to other types of coverage.

A part-time position, the EMD post is a busy one. Zelch most recently has been and continues to be involved in projects associated with being prepared for an incident at Callaway Nuclear Power Plant. Gasconade, Osage, Callaway and Montgomery counties are within the designated affected area and have EMDs who work with state and federal agencies to develop plans for responding to an incident at the power plant.

Zelch recently was lauded by Callaway Nuclear Power Plant officials for his work in establishing a more effective notification system for residents of Morrison. He also is preparing for his first dress rehearsal of the regularly scheduled drill later this year in the county’s Emergency Operations Center in which he oversees representatives of various community agencies in dealing with a simulated disaster. Federal and state emergency response representatives usually attend the drills.

But as for flood-plain management and the update of the maps, Zelch said he would prefer to do something else. “This is one of those jobs you would not wish on your worst enemy,” he said during last week’s Commission session.

Zelch, a longtime military and law enforcement man, has been logging miles trying to become as familiar as he can with the role he assumed, succeeding former EMD Dan Dyer, a professional firefighter who left the post after a year to attend to family matters. To that end, Zelch recently traveled to Nebraska to observe a graded drill in a zone that included a northwestern Missouri county.

“FEMA was really impressed” that he drove 5 ½ hours to observe the exercise, he said, referring to representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

There is another drill that Zelch coordinated in recent weeks, one that hasn’t been held for a long time — a fire drill at the courthouse.

“I’ve been here 8 ½ years and we haven’t had one” during that time until now, said Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel, R-Hermann.

“It was something that was long overdue,” added County Clerk Lesa Lietzow, who said the drill was beneficial for the employees who gathered outside the courthouse where Zelch talked with the staffers about the effort. “It was a very good discussion out there,” Lietzow said.

For Zelch, the fire drill proved to be another learning experience. For instance, he said, he and other employees learned the fire-alarm system is multi-leveled, which now is better understood by employees if the need arise to contact the Hermann Fire Company, which is connected to the courthouse. The EMD said that by not being aware of the proper steps to take, “you might think you’ve notified the fire department, but you haven’t notified the fire department.” That danger has been remedied, thanks to the fire drill.

Another problem that has been resolved — that apparently came about through a lack of fire drills over the years — was how to turn off the annoying fire alarm once it was activated. “No one knew how to shut the alarm off,” said Lietzow. “I went down there (the basement) and started pressing buttons,” she said. She found the correct button.

“It was a good learning lesson,” Zelch said of the fire drill — one likely to become a regular event.

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