Planning can’t be minimized

The Blair County Hazard Mitigation Planning Committee’s name alone should spawn public interest in the work it will be doing in the months ahead.

While there are people who regard planning as a “dry,” tedious subject, others recognize the process as a necessity for conditions, challenges and setbacks that might lie ahead.

Anyone who harbors doubts about planning’s importance should reflect on what Altoona and Blair County — and, indeed, the region beyond — might be like at this time if formal planning efforts had not become so entrenched.

That’s not only from the governmental and geographical standpoints. Consider the planning that preceded the current Altoona Hospital and other medical resources that this county boasts. Consider the planning going into updating Altoona Area School District facilities, as well as the looking-ahead that no doubt is going on in other districts in the county.

Consider the planning that’s ongoing regarding Altoona’s downtown renaissance and the constant emphasis on improving transportation assets.

The list can go on and on.

But back to the Hazard Mitigation Planning Committee: No one should regard its current work as unimportant.

The day might come when the work it is doing now could prevent substantial damage or save lives. Meanwhile, there might be a time when some community or communities — or perhaps the county as a whole — might reap substantial, now-unimagined benefits as a result of the forward-look currently underway.

Mirror reporter William Kibler’s two articles Feb. 4 not only should have been read; the information they contained should have been pondered by all who read them.

For example, Kibler’s article “Blair planning for chaos” provided a snapshot of how the Hazard Mitigation panel will be striving to work with municipalities to ensure a leadership-succession structure if some tragedy or other unforeseen, major incident were to occur.

It would be a designated leadership structure mimicking what’s in place in the federal and state governments. The Feb. 4 article mentioned how, in Washington, if the president died or was incapacitated, the vice president would assume the reins, and if both weren’t able to serve, the task would revert to the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

And, a plan for presidential succession extends beyond the House Speaker.

The issue at the center of Kibler’s other article, “Dry hydrants considered,” has the potential to impact positively many thousands of Blair rural residents who do not have fire hydrants in close proximity to their homes.

As the article pointed out, a dry hydrant located close to a reliable water source such as a river can greatly assist in extracting water from that source so it can be transported quickly by tankers to a fire scene — or, in some instances, negate the need for tanker water transports.

The Hazard Mitigation Planning Committee is an extension of areawide and citywide comprehensive planning that got in high gear in the 1960s. Older county residents can recall the names John J. Schraff and Richard Sutter, who headed city and county planning efforts, respectively, during those early comprehensive-planning years.

This county is better because of good planning initiated long ago, and it will be even better as planning efforts like those in progress now continue.