Oklahoma scored a “C+” in a recent risk assessment, States at Risk: America’s Preparedness Report Card.
The report, by Climate Central and ICF International, assess a series of threats linked to climate change and a state’s plan for such threats until the year 2050. The threats include extreme heat, drought, wildfire and inland flooding.
“Like most states, Oklahoma has taken strong action to address its current climate risks, including a comprehensive State Standard Hazard Mitigation Plan and some sector-specific programs such as the Firewise Program to address wildfires and the Transportation Stormwater Management program to address inland flooding,” states the report.
The report cites Oklahoma’s Comprehensive Water Plan by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and the state’s hazard plan as two positive actions for the future. However, the report states no measures have been made in regard to extreme heat projections as it pertains to climate change.
Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management Keli Cain said, as with many such reports, her office was not contacted or asked for feedback.
“There are some things in here that I wouldn’t necessarily agree with,” she said. “We do have response plans that we maintain at the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management. It’s an all-hazards plan that covers wildfire, flooding and other natural disasters.”
Cain said the report appears like it used resources readily available online without requesting any additional information.
A spokesperson with the report card, said researchers did speak to individuals at the state level from various departments.
The scoring methodology was used in consultation with an expert panel. States were evaluated and scored against a core set of actions, like health, communities, transportation, energy and water, and the role such an action plays in modern society.
Cain said regardless, it is difficult to view the report as an accurate representation of the state.
The state’s hazard mitigation plan, referenced by Cain and the report, is updated every five years. The plan last was updated in 2014.
Cain said the five-year requirement is set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA.
“One thing that they (the report card) mention quite a bit is planning for climate change,” Cain said. “That is something that is mentioned in our current plan, but FEMA has added a requirement to put language in future hazard mitigation plans referring to increased risks posed by climate change, and that is something we are looking into.”
Oklahoma has several agencies, besides the department, that work in hazards. The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry’s forestry division is the lead agency in the state for fighting wildfires.
The state also has a drought specific plan, put in place with OWRB and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission.
But, that plan is not available online and has not been updated, according to Cain.
One item the report did not mention was extreme weather.
Cain said data for tornados, earthquakes and other natural disasters may not have been available.
“In Oklahoma, we do have a lot of extreme disaster events in general, so we always plan for the worst,” Cain said. “That is the goal of emergency management, to plan for the worst type of disaster you can have. When you talk about if the plans include increased risk from climate change, our plans don’t mention that but they do look at the worst-case scenario and how do we mitigate those risks and respond to those risks.”
For the full report, or for more information, visit statesatrisk.org.