TO: HONORABLE MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS
FROM: ASSISTANT TO THE CITY MANAGER
DATE: NOVEMBER 15, 2005
SUBJECT: DISASTER COMMUNICATIONS FACILITY PROPOSAL
Communications is a significant element in all emergency management operations. After a catastrophic disaster, the City must anticipate the loss of all standard forms of communications for 3-7 days and reliance upon amateur radio operators to gather and disseminate information to and from the City’s Emergency Operations Center, community and outside agencies for disaster assistance. Currently, a small utility room located inside the City’s Cable TV Studio serves as the central communications hub for amateur radio operators within the City limits. This space is inadequate and ill equipped for the City’s volunteer amateur radio operators to effectively receive and transmit messages during a disaster scenario. Therefore, the two amateur radio operator organizations, the County Disaster Communications Service (DCS) and Peninsula Volunteer Alert Network (PVAN) have proposed a separate facility with additional radio equipment to meet the City’s disaster communication needs. The City’s Emergency Preparedness Committee has reviewed the proposal and unanimously recommended it for City Council consideration. The estimated full cost of a dedicated, fully equipped disaster communications facility is $59,546. Staff is recommending the Plan "B" budget of $52,338.
There are two volunteer organizations dedicated to providing emergency amateur radio communications in the City, the Los Angeles County Disaster Communications Service (DCS) and the Peninsula Volunteer Alert Network (PVAN). DCS is under County of Los Angeles authority and the Sheriff Department is responsible for managing and deploying DCS members to any area of the County as needed. There are currently 30 DCS members in the City and membership continues to grow. DCS members essentially serve the needs of first responders--Sheriff and Fire to communicate with other public agencies, critical facilities, and Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs).
The City initiated PVAN, a local networks of trained ham radio operators, for the sole purpose of relaying information and messages between the City Emergency Operations Center and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members and Neighborhood Watch members during a crisis or natural disaster. This neighborhood communication link is the unique aspect of the PVAN program because many neighborhoods may be isolated for the first 72 hours after an incident as first responders (Sheriff and Fire) focus on high priority items and critical facilities in the City. The type of information PVAN members may report, include preliminary damage assessment or general neighborhood conditions, critical needs, injury counts, people at risk, requests for urgent medical assistance, and so on. During the past year, PVAN has worked very hard with CERT and Neighborhood Watch members to define roles, establish procedures and protocols, and integrate their programs in support of the City’s disaster preparedness efforts.
All DCS and PVAN amateur radio communications pass through the City’s "net control" or disaster communications center, which is located inside a small utility room of the Cable TV Studio. The utility room presents some problems--limited space and noise for DCS and PVAN to effectively receive and transmit critical information. There’s enough room for two people (one DCS member and one PVAN member) to manage communications and information records during a disaster (see attached photo). If a major disaster were to occur today and all 50 PVAN and 30 DCS volunteers tried to check in, the City’s "net control" system would be overwhelmed. In terms of "net control" management, one well-trained person can handle 10-15 amateur radio operators. PVAN and DCS are both growing organizations and the long-range goal is to have a total of 200 amateur radio volunteers trained and ready for emergency/disaster service. To manage the anticipated communication traffic from the neighborhoods and critical facilities to the Lomita Sheriff’s EOC and the City’s EOC, PVAN and DCS estimate at least 6 people for "net control" and 2-4 people for administrative tasks would be needed during a large-scale disaster.
The other restricting factor is the noise from the air conditioning system inside the utility room. The noise is so loud that it interferes with amateur radio operators’ communications. The air conditioning system is required to run continuously due to the temperature sensitive equipment in the Cable TV Studio. Attached to this staff report is a picture of the air conditioning system that covers the entire ceiling of the utility room.
The disaster response and recovery efforts for Hurricane Katrina in the State of Louisiana remind us of how important timely and accurate information gathering and dissemination are in the decision and policy making process by governmental officials at all levels. In times of crisis and natural disasters, emergency communication systems, 911 centers, cell phone towers and normal fixed phone lines are often either destroyed or overwhelmed. Hence, amateur radios soon become the key mode, if not the only surviving means, of reliable communications during and after an event for governmental agencies, fire, police, hospitals and the greater community. Without this alternative means of communication, the ability of the City and first responders to effectively manage the situation and request for additional disaster assistance from higher levels of government may be severely hampered.
Disaster Communication Facility Proposal
To improve the City’s communications capabilities in the short and long term, the Peninsula Volunteer Alert Network (PVAN) and County Disaster Communications Service (DCS) jointly submitted a proposal to the City’s Emergency Preparedness Committee for a larger and better-equipped disaster communications facility on City Hall grounds. On October 17th, the Committee reviewed the proposal and unanimously recommended the project for City Council consideration for implementation. The Chair of the Emergency Preparedness Committee, Mel Hughes, will be present at the Council meeting to provide the Committee’s comments on the proposal. In addition, representatives from PVAN and DCS will also be in attendance to answer any specific technical questions not covered in the staff report.
The facility proposal consists of purchasing a used, refurbished modular office that is 10 feet wide and 32 feet long (not including the ADA access ramp) to be installed in compliance with the City’s building and safety regulations behind the City’s Cable TV Studio (see attachments for the aerial site plan and photo of a sample modular office). The following factors determined the location selection: proximity to existing utility lines, better radio reception than at City Hall or its present location, and relatively level surface.
The modular office would be equipped with the necessary office and radio equipment for about 10 people to perform amateur radio communications and information management. No restrooms are being proposed, because DCS and PVAN volunteers have made arrangements with Palos Verdes on the Net to utilize the restroom amenities inside the Cable TV Studio.
The proposal includes new radio equipment to replace old equipment and to provide DCS and PVAN more flexibility and better reception for communicating on various radio frequencies throughout the City. For PVAN to operate in parallel with DCS at the same time within a commonly used radio band, the proposal includes the installation of a donated 40-foot amateur radio antenna approximately 40 feet north of the modular office. This new tower will be very similar in style and size as the existing DCS tower (see attached photo) located approximately 80 feet north of the Cable TV Studio.
In case of a power failure, the facility would have primary and secondary back-up power sources to function for the first 72-consecutive hours after a disaster. The modular office would be connected to the City’s stand-by generator as its primary back up power. For secondary emergency power source, the City would purchase a small portable gasoline generator to charge gel batteries for the facility’s radio equipment.
Both the Public Works and Planning Departments have reviewed the proposal in concept and determined the project is feasible without raising significant concerns. Should City Council approve the new facility, staff will work with DCS and PVAN volunteers to ensure that the project complies with city and state regulations.
Should the City Council approve installing the disaster communications facility as a stand-alone modular office on the paved surface behind the Cable TV Studio, the estimated project cost is $59,546. This budget includes the modular office, office furnishings, radio equipment, new computer laptops, portable generator, and utility connections.
Plan "B"--Palos Verdes on the Net Facility Proposal
Palos Verdes on the Net (PVN) is requesting City Council permission to install a modular office (up to 24 ft X 40 ft in size) for an Animation Studio, consisting of additional office and storage space behind the Cable TV Studio. Palos Verdes on the Net would be responsible for funding its modular office.
Should City Council grant PVN permission, staff proposes connecting the two separate modular offices together to conserve land area and share some of expenses associated with installing the utilities and the switchback entrance ramp (required by ADA-Americans with Disability Act) with Palos Verdes on the Net. Attached is an aerial site plan. Staff recommends this plan with the estimated project budget of $52,338.
The disaster communications facility is an unbudgeted item and staff requests Council’s approval for a budget appropriation of $52,338 from the General Fund Reserves to the Emergency Preparedness Program’s FY05-06 Budget. Attached to this staff report is the Statement of Estimated General Fund Reserves incorporating the Plan "B" budget amount.
In addition, staff estimates the total annual expense for maintenance and utilities will be approximately $840.
No Action. By maintaining the status quo, the City and Sheriff will have to determine how to best manage the PVAN and DCS communication systems during a major disaster by either limiting the City’s "net control" to communicate up to 30 in the field operators; asking as many as 8 DCS/PVAN volunteers to operate outside the Cable TV Studio using portable radios; or allowing only DCS communications with first responders.
Assistant to the City Manager
RESOLUTION NO. 2005- XX
A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES, AMENDING RESOLUTION 2005-53, THE BUDGET APPROPRIATION FOR FY05-06, TO INCREASE THE EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS PROGRAM BUDGET IN THE AMOUNT OF $52,338.
WHEREAS, Section 3.32 of the Rancho Palos Verdes Municipal Code provides that all expenditures in excess of budgeted allocations must be by supplemental appropriation of the City Council;
WHEREAS, on May 31, 2005, the City Council of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes adopted Resolution 2005-53, approving a spending plan and authorizing a budget appropriation for FY05-06;
WHEREAS, the City Council wishes to establish a disaster communications facility for the City’s Emergency Operations Center to effectively communicate via amateur radio with first responders, neighborhood disaster volunteers and outside agencies when all other standard modes of communication are unavailable during a crisis or natural disaster; and
WHEREAS, a budget increase of $52,338 in the General Fund is necessary to authorize expenditures for the aforementioned proposal.
BE IT, THEREFORE, RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES:
Section One. The following increase be made to the General Fund FY05-06 budget:
Emergency Preparedness Program #101-1026-421-32-00 Professional/Technical $8,349
Emergency Preparedness Program #101-1026-421-61-00 Op Supp/Minor Equip $33,124
Emergency Preparedness Program #101-1026-421-94-10 Equip Replacemt Chgs $10,865
PASSED, APPROVED, AND ADOPTED THE 15th DAY OF NOVEMBER 2005.
State of California )
County of Los Angeles )ss
City of Rancho Palos Verdes )
I, Carolynn Petru, City Clerk of The City of Rancho Palos Verdes, hereby certify that the above Resolution No. 2005- was duly and regularly passed and adopted by the said City Council at regular meeting thereof held on November 15, 2005.