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Ole Miss receives grant from FEMA to upgrade mitigation plan

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and FEMA have awarded the University of Mississippi an $84,344 grant to continue researching ways to upgrade the university’s Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan.
In 2006, Ole Miss became the first college in the state to form and have a mitigation plan approved. The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning now requires each public university to have such a plan in place.
Charles Swann, associate director at the Mississippi Mineral Resources Institute and Earthquakes Preparedness, said mitigation focuses on preparation, not response.
“Mitigation (consists of) things that we can do now to lessen the impact of a hazard that may occur in the future,” he said.
Chris Mullen, interim chair of the civil engineering department at Ole Miss, said there are several reasons the plan needs to be upgraded.
Buildings that were built in the years since the first plan’s approval, such as the Robert C. Khayat Law Center and both Residential Colleges, must now be evaluated.
The last plan identified tornadoes, earthquakes and straight line winds as high-risk disasters for the area.  
Mullen said focusing on tornadoes and improving awareness are two targets he would like to accomplish with the research.
Tornadoes, Mullen said, are considered a top priority for the Oxford-University area. Mullen said they hope to be able to better understand tornadoes with the grant. In addition to evaluating the facilities on campus, Mullen said the plan also encompasses roadways, bridges, utilities and “essentially everything that makes the university function.”
Kyle Bethay, a first-year graduate student in civil engineering, will work on the plan in the summer by evaluating structures on campus.  
“It’ll be interesting to see how the older structures on campus compare to the newer structures and the cost difference between the buildings that were built when the university first started versus the buildings that have been built in the last couple of years,” Bethay said.
Civil engineering graduate student Mamun Miah will work on entering information into the Hazus-MH database system.
“Whenever a new project comes we get excited,” Miah said. “To get this project is a much more hands-on experience and a real feel.
“If we can do something and make a difference, it will feel like we have done something to defend and protect our infrastructure on campus, so there’s that extra incentive to do this work (and) research apart from getting the grant.”
The university received its first grant six years ago.
“The grant has put us in a special relationship with MEMA and FEMA,” Mullen said.  
The first plan consisted of 25 action plans, several of which, like purchasing new gas shut off valves and storm shelters, have been completed.  
“The operation side of campus is sort of behind the scenes, and this project brings those people together,” Mullen said.
Mullen said he is excited that the final output of the project will be influenced by their contributions.
The University of Mississippi’s mitigation plan is available to view at http://www.olemiss.edu/orgs/ccep.