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TO: HONORABLE MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL
FROM: EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS TASK FORCE
DATE: APRIL 15, 2003
SUBJECT: EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS TASK FORCE - FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS
Staff Coordinator: Carolynn Petru, Assistant City Manager
Consider the recommendations submitted by the Emergency Preparedness Task Force and provide direction.
In February 19, 2002, the City Council adopted Resolution No. 2002 - 11, creating a seven-member Emergency Preparedness Committee. A copy of the Committee’s Mission Statement, which was part of this resolution, is attached for the City Council’s information. On April 16, 2002, the Council adopted Resolution No. 2002 – 29, increasing the Committee’s membership to nine. Subsequently, the City Council interviewed sixteen applicants interested in appointment to the new Committee. On May 7, 2002, based on the quality and diversity of the applicants, Council decided to appoint all sixteen applicants to an Emergency Preparedness Task Force (EPTF), one of which subsequently resigned. The Task Force was created to serve on a temporary basis (approximately one year) and was charged with studying all of the issues related to the City’s existing disaster plans and resources and to advise the City Council on what tasks and activities the City and the permanent Committee should undertake to further improve the community’s state of readiness.
The Task Force met for the first time in September 2002 and held a total of eight meetings. During these meetings, the Task Force heard from a variety of guest speakers, such as Mike Martinet, Area G Disaster Services Coordinator, Assistant Fire Chief John Alkema and Gail Lorenzen, Neighborhood Watch. The Task Force members divided into four subcommittees that gathered an extensive amount of information on specific emergency preparedness topics and resources. In addition, several individual members conducted their own research and presented their findings to the entire Task Force. The follow-up agendas and minutes from the Task Force’s meetings have been previously provided to the City Council under separate cover.
In addition to the potential natural disasters endemic to Southern California—massive earthquakes, destructive wildfires, widespread flooding—the United States is now threatened by terrorism. Attacks on Americans are not new, but in the past incidents of terrorism have taken place abroad. The events of September 11, 2001, however, marked the beginning of new dangers and emphasized the vulnerability of the United States and its citizens on American soil. Recognizing the inherent dangers of the 21st century, the Rancho Palos Verdes City Council created an Emergency Preparedness Task Force (EPTF), charging it with the responsibility to advise and assist the City Council and staff to ensure that the City of Rancho Palos Verdes maintains a high state of readiness to respond to a wide variety of emergencies and disasters.
Since September 2002, members of the EPTF have investigated numerous possibilities and scenarios for ensuring that state of readiness and now presents a number of recommendations for City Council consideration. The Task Force’s recommendations fall into six basic categories:
1. Public Education
The Task Force’s recommendations within each of these six categories are presented below:
1. PUBLIC EDUCATION
The City of Rancho Palos Verdes should develop an Emergency Preparedness Handbook (in large print) to be distributed to each household in the City. This handbook should be updated on an annual basis and contain the information necessary for citizens to be prepared to meet emergencies on an individual basis until the situation can be stabilized.
A separate page on the City’s web site should be developed and dedicated to emergency preparedness. The address of this web page should be easily spelled and remembered.
Information booths at City and community events should be utilized to disseminate emergency preparedness information to the public. In addition, a City telephone hotline number should be provided for information about local emergencies.
Other venues should also be utilized. For example, emergency preparedness should be a topic for "City Talk" on Cox Cable, articles should be generated for the media, and City workshops should be conducted on a regular basis and devoted to various aspects of emergency preparedness.
Trained volunteers, such as PERT members, should be used to conduct community outreach programs such as going to homeowner association, PTA, and other community group meetings to disseminate information about emergency preparedness, as well as to gather information about existing community resources that could be useful during an emergency.
2. VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS
It is recommended that the City assist in the creation of a Citizen Corps Council on the Peninsula, based on the Department of Homeland Security’s national model, which would allow every citizen to become involved in emergency preparedness and take advantage of the best practices used by other jurisdictions. The Citizen Corps Council would support and assist in the coordination of the activities of various emergency volunteer organizations such as PERT, DCS, ERT, and Neighborhood Watch.
The City should help to link Neighborhood Watch with the Palos Verdes Amateur Radio Club to provide a communications system at the neighborhood level when conventional communications systems are disrupted.
The City should also conduct a major public outreach program to encourage residents to become active in existing organizations such as PERT and Neighborhood Watch and support ways to expand and increase the participation in existing volunteer programs, such as providing funding, equipment, and training opportunities.
3. CITY EMERGENCY INFRASTRUCTURE
It is recommended that the City’s Multi-Hazard Functional SEMS Plan (adopted in 1997) be updated to comply with current state requirements. In addition, the City’s employee emergency handbook should be consistent with the City’s SEMS Plan.
Emergency supply caches should be created at strategic sites around the City that can be used by City staff, first responders, volunteer responders, and the general public. The Department of Public Works would coordinate the location, contents, and access to these caches with the School District and other emergency response organizations. Supplies would include such items as road barricades, ropes, water, flashlights, duct tape, sandbags, plastic sheeting, shovels and other supplies deemed necessary in an emergency situation.
It is highly recommended that a permanent Emergency Operations Center be established at City Hall, which can become instantly operational simply by opening the door and turning the power on, or the emergency generation in case of a power failure. The Emergency Operations Center should contain a HAM radio station or, at the least, an antenna system. The communications system should provide for interagency communication when all other normal channels of communication are down, such as between the City and the School District.
Software should be added to the City’s proposed Geographic Information System (GIS) that provides disaster analysis and prediction tools, to better support disaster planning, situation modeling and field activity.
4. INTERAGENCY COORDINATION
In addition to participation in annual County disaster drills, periodic drills on a Peninsula-wide basis should be held, such as tabletop, functional and full-scale exercises, which would include coordination with the School District and private schools.
Sponsor an annual summit or conference for local first responders on specific emergency preparedness issues, such as mass care or the evacuation of the elderly and disabled. The primary goal of the summit or conference would be encourage first responders to network with each other, such as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, PERT, local hospitals, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
It is imperative to develop a system that will allow pre-approved disaster volunteers to enter a disaster area, such as a school campus, to assist during an emergency,
5. CITY STAFFING
In light of the recommendations contained in this report, the City Manager should examine the City’s existing staff resources and determine if more of these resources can be dedicated to the position of Emergency Services Coordinator (20-40 hours per week). Currently, the Assistant City Manager acts in this capacity, but because of her other job responsibilities, only dedicates approximately 10% to 20% of her time to this function. The duties of the Emergency Services Coordinator would include acting as the staff liaison to the Emergency Preparedness Committee (see next section), acting as liaison with existing emergency response organizations and volunteer groups to coordinate City activities and training exercises, contacting local businesses to determine what resources are available for emergency response and seeking grant funding for these programs. Possible means to expand this staff function include creating a new position, retaining a consultant or reallocating existing staff assignments. The City should strongly consider job-sharing these responsibilities with the Cities of Rolling Hills Estates and Rolling Hills, modeled after the regional law enforcement cost sharing model.
6. EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS COMMITTEE
Establish a permanent City Emergency Preparedness Committee (five to seven members) to oversee the implementation of these recommendations. The members should have backgrounds in emergency services or demonstrated dedication to emergency preparedness.
Overall, the Task Force found that the City is served by highly trained and well-equipped network of first responders, including the Los Angeles County Fire, Sheriff and Health Departments. In the event of a major incident, mass care and disaster relief would be provided by organizations such as the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. The School District is in the final phase of developing its own disaster plan and has already developed caches of emergency supplies at its campuses. In addition, the Peninsula is very fortunate to have a number of existing dedicated citizen volunteer organizations that can assist during emergencies and major incidents, such as PERT, DCS and Neighborhood Watch.
Although communication between these various organizations has improved since September 11, 2001, the Task Force found that there is a need to facilitate more interaction and communication between them, including coordinated drills and training exercises. The Task Force also found that there is an overwhelming need to educate, involve, and empower the general public in emergency preparedness. All of the recommendations presented in this report are intended to accomplish these goals.
Depending on which recommendations the City Council is interested in implementing, staff can prepare preliminary cost estimates for discussion during the budget process.
Respectfully submitted by the Emergency Preparedness Task Force:
Jack Karp, Chairman