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By way of introduction, Mayor Wolowicz noted the significance of the workshop, adding that he could not recall a meeting with such a diverse group of residents and specialists in attendance relating to the topic of Emergency Preparedness. He commented that much had been noted about the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and while he hoped the City would never have to deal with such a disaster, preparedness begins at home and he felt it appropriate for all residents to be brought up to date. He thanked Assistant to the City Manager Park for helping organize the meeting and City Manager Evans for helping to coordinate it.
City Manager Evans provided an overview of the workshop’s format, asserting that the meeting was primarily a response to his concerns that the Council was not familiar enough with its role in emergency preparedness and with all the other agencies and responders that would interact with each other in case of disaster.
1. Emergency Management Overview including the role of the County, City and Area G Disaster Management
Mike Martinet, Area G Disaster Management Coordinator, explained that Area G is a joint powers authority, made up of the 14 cities in the South Bay and the County of Los Angeles and was established in the early 1960s at the height of the Cold War. He explained that, at the time, cities wanted more emergency preparedness information and services than the County could provide and so the County was broken up into districts. He indicated that his job as Coordinator for Area G is to work with the cities in training, planning and any other service related to emergency management or disaster preparedness and, on a time available basis, he also works with school districts and local hospitals.
With the aid of slides, Mr. Martinet illustrated the difference between an emergency and a disaster, noting that the scope and scale for a disaster occurs when a community’s resources and ability to respond are overwhelmed. He explained that various agencies attend to disasters, many have statutory responsibilities to respond, and others do so out of the goodness of their hearts or as a tenant of their faith to help the victims of disaster. He listed out the many dimensions of a disaster: infrastructure damage, psychological and medical trauma, employee turnover, job loss, tax base erosion, economic damage and historical change.
Mr. Martinet summarized the pre-disaster activities that communities can engage in, such as Planning, Training, Supplies, Risk Management, Land Use Policies and Development, noting that people with property in landslide zones often insist they be allowed to develop which puts them at risk because the land is already moving without additional impact of seismic shaking. He commended the City Council for not allowing building in those areas of the City.
Mr. Martinet cited a German study of the largest cities in the world, the hazards that affect them, the risk they are exposed to and how much wealth could be lost in a disaster. He reported that Los Angeles was ranked third in the world partly because our population is not as large as in the top two cities, but he noted that there is so much wealth and infrastructure that the risk for huge losses is high. He commented that the primary threat to the region is earthquakes, more so than any terrorist threat, and he presented a chart of economic losses worldwide and insured losses, which are going up. He reported that by mid-century the total economic loss in a year to disasters could exceed the gross world product and he noted that we have to get a handle on the way disasters are approached or the standard of living will be greatly affected.
Mr. Martinet explained that Los Angeles County has 88 cities and is organized effectively to deal with disasters, with 20 Sheriff Stations as part of an interconnected web with County Fire Stations as well as major hospitals that are interconnected with County Health. He indicated that good communication systems are in place and explained that the Los Angeles County Inter Emergency Operations Center has a large capacity for participation, allowing communities to work together to coordinate disaster responses, requests for assistance and mutual aid across the Country.
Mr. Martinet indicated that the state is divided up into 3 disaster regions with the southern region coordinating for the 10 southern counties and inland and coastal regions and all is coordinated out of the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Sacramento. He observed that all disasters are local because the people suffering are those in the area affected and other areas only involved on a political level. He stressed that Federal assistance is not an insurance policy and is never intended to make people whole but rather provides seed money for local areas to begin the rebuilding process. He pointed out that even with the best insurance policies there will be loses that are not covered.
Mr. Martinet reported that there are Master Mutual Aid Agreements in place and whatever is needed can be requested from around the state and Emergency Management Assistance Contacts allow rapid access to resources from other states. He stressed, however, that all assistance takes some time to arrive because unlike hurricanes and tornados where there is some warning, there is no advance notice with earthquakes, preventing the government from pre-positioning resources to deal with them.
Mr. Martinet observed that Rancho Palos Verdes is an area with complex and connected hazards and so far most people have not effectively worked to minimize the dangers we know we will have. He provided examples of simple mitigation measures like strapping down hot water heaters and reported that a new standard had been created by the National Fire Protection Association which lays out item by item what every entity should do to have a solid disaster preparedness plan and post-disaster recovery plan in place. He asserted that disasters should be expected and that responsibility needs to be taken individually and in the community, as everyone has a responsibility to look out for each other because the State and Federal government will not be able to provide adequate assistance on an individual basis. He pointed out that there is plenty of assistance available for smaller disasters, but not nearly enough help will be available for a large-scale disaster.
Responding to Mayor Wolowicz, Mr. Martinet explained that implementation of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) came under the aegis of each individual city and that he was providing support to the cities to have their staff and elected-officials training in this new disaster communication protocol. He explained the different NIMS training programs, noting that most cities have been trained in the first phase and are now receiving training for the second phase. He added that elected officials receive what is called NIMS 700 Executive Training.
Mayor Wolowicz remarked that the Federal website for NIMS training was difficult to navigate.
Mr. Martinet agreed with the Mayor’s assessment and reported that the Federal government dictated what the training must consist of and that he has worked with his colleagues to develop training programs that take the required material and add other information to it that is useful to local cities.
Mayor Wolowicz indicated that he wanted to see the information arranged into a more user-friendly format.
Mr. Martinet reported that he had re-crafted the NIMS training materials to be as relevant as possible.
2. City’s Emergency Operations Center and City Council Role
City Manager Evans summarized the material of record and with the aid of slides presented an organizational chart for the City’s Disaster Management Team and a photograph of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at City Hall, noting that employees have been trained in emergency procedures so they are prepared to set up the EOC and begin operations. He explaining that if the disaster happens after hours, employees who live closest to City Hall are most likely to arrive first and set-up, with other employees who live farther away arriving later on.
City Manager Evans summarized the Council’s responsibilities which included: declaring a local emergency, participating in emergency City Council meetings, developing and approving temporary emergency policies and orders, providing policy direction to the EOC Director, surveying disaster damage and meeting with residents, receiving frequent disaster briefings from emergency personnel, providing interviews with the news media and advocating the City’s needs with State and Federal government officials. He asserted that the events of February 2005 provided a good example of the Council’s role in disasters: the Council toured the flood and mud damaged site, spoke with citizens, reassured citizens, called a special session of the City Council, provided information to the media, stayed informed and kept the public informed.
City Manager Evans listed things the City Council is not responsible for including: filling sandbags, operating pumps, directing traffic, conducting search and rescue operations, rendering first aid and security. He indicated that the City would do damage assessment and coordination with other agencies but there would not be a lot of employees in the field.
Mayor Wolowicz indicated that he had previous discussions with City Manager Evans and was aware of the duties of the Council but he wanted to share that information with his colleagues as well as the public.
Councilman Gardiner asked how the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) would operate in the event of a large earthquake disables the telephone and computer systems.
City Manager Evans explained that City Hall had an emergency back up generator, satellite telephones and a portable Emergency Operations Center if relocation to another facility is necessary. He noted that Hesse Park was the secondary location for the City’s EOC and that the Ladera Linda Community Center was the third center if the other two were destroyed or uninhabitable. He noted that the City has back up plans in place, that the generator at City Hall will run all emergency operations for several days and that the City is in the process of getting a larger generator.
Councilman Gardiner understood that the City had a back-up power supply, but questioned how the City would communicate with the outside world, noting that ham radio operators say that no other communications systems work after a major earthquake.
City Manager Evans indicated that the City has a major emergency communications facility on-site that is staffed by ham radio operators.
Councilman Gardiner wanted to know whether the emergency radio operators were part of the EOC concept.
City Manager Evans assured Councilman Gardiner that ham radio operators were part of the EOC and that their existing facilities at City Hall were in the process of being significantly upgraded.
Mayor Wolowicz questioned whether the City’s November 2004 Emergency Preparedness Handbook had been updated.
Assistant to the City Manager Park indicated that the document was still valid.
Councilman Gardiner wanted to know how they would communicate with the Sheriff and Fire Department during a major disaster.
3. County Fire Department Emergency Response Overview
Mayor Wolowicz welcomed new Battalion Chief Tony Iacano to the community.
Battalion Chief Iacano indicated that he was pleased to work in the area, noting that he had been recently transferred to Battalion 14. He thanked residents in the area who have been conducting block parties and BBQs to show their appreciation for the County Fire Department’s services.
Battalion Chief Iacano asserted that the Los Angeles County Fire Department is a recognized expert in emergency management planning and that its Incidence Management Team is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. He summarized the Department’s earthquake procedures which included conducting site surveys and jurisdictional surveys to determine the extent of local damage and impact; providing reports to Command Control regarding the intensity of the earthquake, the rating and a scale of damage; establishing a Battalion Center Command to manage all resources in the region; establishing a command post in a safe location with good communication; beginning to conduct triage and assign resources based on the danger to life; allocating resources as needed and establishing allied command with other agencies like the Los Angeles County Sheriff, City of Los Angeles Fire and Police Departments and other agencies; requesting agency representatives from the City; establishing a multiple staging area to access different places if roads are closed; seek to establish Rancho Palos Verdes as a complex category incident with multiple incidents; assigning division supervisors and branch directors; establishing a Public Safety Answer Point (PSAP) if the 9-1-1 system goes down with an agency representative there and staff dispatched; establishing liaisons with the City’s EOC and identifying immediate needs for resources to the region; identifying and meeting short term needs; and bring in resources from other regions.
Battalion Chief Iacano asserted that it was incumbent upon the community to understand that Fire Department personnel might drive by their home but not be able to stop while conducting reconnaissance. He noted that residents could help by shutting off their own water, gas and electrical service, if they deem that a hazard exists and they can also help by not using emergency resources for non-life threatening injuries or minor wounds, as paramedics will be overwhelmed. He suggested logging on to www.lacofd.org for more information and indicated in closing that he was proud to be able to serve the community.
Mayor Wolowicz asked whether the Emergency Preparedness pamphlets were available at City Hall.
Assistant to the City Manager Park reported that there were pamphlets available at City Hall, that information is available from the website: www.palosverdes/rpv, and that information is also available in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Telephone Directory. She encouraged the public to call her with questions at (310) 544-5206.
Councilman Gardiner questioned how the County Fire Department would communicate in a major earthquake in the Los Angeles Basin.
Battalion Chief Iacano explained that if the Fire Department’s communication system goes down, they would most likely communicate through their Mobile Data Terminals, which are digital, because the system that supports that is more reliable than the antiquated VHF, UHF modes.
Councilman Gardiner expressed concern that the terminals were all connected by cables that would be disrupted in a major earthquake.
Battalion Chief Iacano explained that the digital system was more reliable and newer.
Councilman Gardiner reported that an electro magnetic pulse associated with a nuclear blast tended to knock out all solid-state circuitry.
Battalion Chief Iacano indicated that if communications went down they would bring in mobile trailers and trucks and would reestablish communications rapidly.
Councilman Gardiner received clarification that the County Fire Department and Sheriff’s Department had interoperability between their communication systems.
Mayor Wolowicz reported observing a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) drill 4-5 months earlier and noted that the Fire Department brought out a trailer full of supplies which he learned was the only one for the region and that it was located in Downey. He expressed concern that if there were a region-wide disaster, there would be a big demand for that equipment.
Battalion Chief Iacano explained that they had several Metropolitan Emergency Response Vehicles (MERVs) in the region, which are equipped with certain resources based upon the needs. He explained that their response is very fast with staff and personnel coming into the affected area, developing a comprehensive plan, developing incident objectives and then deploying to the most stricken areas with assigned personnel and resources.
Councilman Gardiner pointed out that with minor disasters most things work as planned, but the larger the disaster gets, major resources are stretched thin and the City would not receive very much in the way of outside support. He questioned what should be put into place so that the City is more self-reliant and at what point should the City consider itself to be on its own during a disaster.
Battalion Chief Iacano noted that when disaster strikes information is gathered from the local fire stations and all 21 Battalion Chiefs do an intensity rating and assess the magnitude of the earthquake event, then within 10-15 minutes or less they report to Dispatch and the Dispatch Chief gets a bird’s eye view where in the County the most damage has occurred and at that point resources are concentrated in the area with the most damage. He indicated that if the entire region has the same problem and there is a drawdown in resources, the units stationed on the Peninsula will stay here and even be augmented because in the triaging process, resources will be implemented in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Mayor Pro Tem Long felt that a good response was coordinated for the ruptured gas main in the Northridge earthquake, noting that the Fire Department and the utility were quickly on the scene, that there was complete evacuation and that there was no damage to structures as a result. He pointed out that it was important that people be poised to deal with their own situation and he indicated that he has an automatic earthquake shut off valve at his home in case he is not at home when an earthquake hits.
Battalion Chief Iacano commented that the ruptured gas main during the Northridge earthquake was a routine scenario for the Fire Department, as they frequently deal with gas line breaks from people digging them up or running into them with their cars and he noted that it was rare that a gas line deteriorated or broke on its own accord. He explained that the greatest danger comes from gas collecting in an undetected area because it is highly combustible.
Mayor Wolowicz encouraged members of the Emergency Preparedness Committee to participate in the discussion.
Vice Chair Weiner noted that the Committee had stressed the importance of residents being prepared, keeping supplies on hand to be self sufficient for 3-5 days and sheltering in place, and he noted that the longer residents can survive on their own, that the passage of time allows for more resources and relief personnel to come in.
Ex Officio Member Karp related that during the Malibu fires in the 1990s, fire engines came from as far north as San Francisco and stressed that it is critical to be able to be on your own for the first 24-72 hours, as it takes awhile to get resources in place.
Mayor Wolowicz pointed out that Mr. Karp was an advisor to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
4. County Sheriff Department Emergency Response Overview
Sheriff Captain Zuanich from the Lomita Station introduced the next five speakers that would be discussing various aspects of the Sheriff’s Department’s response during a major earthquake. He related that he had been a part of an Area Command Team where he got called 5 times in 3 ½ years to respond to major disasters and incidents. He noted that although he had received extensive training in incident management, it was still controlled chaos at the beginning of each incident, until they are able to gather information about the event.
Lomita Sheriff’s Station
Sergeant Rozas with Lomita Sheriff’s Station explained that the Sheriff’s Department and County Fire Department have strict guidelines and procedures to develop area-specific emergency response plans. With the aid of slides, he presented a list of codes that they have to follow noting that the Los Angeles County Code designates the Sheriff as the Director of Emergency Operations for the County, which controls one of the largest resources in the United States. He summarized the material of record noting that some of the Sheriff’s duties include opening up the County EOC, coordinating the utilization of county, local government, state and federal resources and coordinating operations conducted by local governments in accordance with approved mutual aid agreements.
With regard to communications, Sergeant Rozas indicated that the Lomita Sheriff’s Station had a Disaster Communications Service with volunteer ham radio operators who can communicate with the EOC downtown; that there are satellite phones in the Field Sergeants’ cars and the Watch Commander’s Office; and that the County has an Emergency Management Information System that can be directly accessed through the Internet and is also available via satellite and that satellite radio can also be accessed. He noted that other duties of the Sheriff’s Department included disseminating emergency information to the public through the Emergency Broadcast system.
Sergeant Rozas reported that the Sheriff’s Department follows the Manual of Policies and Procedures and all Sheriff’s deputies are NIMS qualified. He explained that Emergency Operating Procedures had been developed for specific contingencies such as earthquakes and large fires and that these documents contain classified information and must remain confidential. He explained that the Watch Commander or Incident Commander follows those step-by-step guidelines. He stated that the Unit Commanders are the captains at each Sheriff’s station and they are responsible for making sure the plans are kept current. He indicated that the Incident Commander is the person in charge at that time the incident occurs and noted that Sheriff deputies work “12 and 12” schedules; that units are immediately dispatched to check all critical facilities including disaster routes and pre-designated, pre-evaluated staging areas. He indicated that the Sheriff’s Station also keeps a list of established local private vendors that can be used if supplies are needed. He explained that critical facilities, which are all high occupancy structures, disaster routes and public facilities have all been identified ahead of time and must be inspected to see if they are secure. Immediately following an earthquake, he stated that the Sheriff’s patrol units have to define the extent of the damage within 60 minutes and report back to the Incident Commander, who then determines what actions need to be taken. He explained that during this time, communications with surrounding areas is established and a status report is prepared for the City and the surrounding area; the Deputy Sheriffs then go back out into the field and conduct a General Area Survey of every single street in the City; this information is then forwarded to the County EOC. During this time, Sergeant Rozas stated that the Lomita Station would monitor reports coming from the County EOC for tsunami alerts, pointing out that Rancho Palos Verdes is the only coastal city in Southern California that has a County-approved tsunami response plan. He noted that after each major aftershock, the Incident Commanders requires patrol units to go out into the field for another status report and all the information gathered is sent to the sub-EOC at the Lomita Sheriff’s station.
Sergeant Rozas explained that there are no pre-designated evacuation sites on the Peninsula, but that there are pre-evaluated sites. He indicated that the Lomita Station’s various volunteer programs are notified by whatever means available, with public information disseminated in the same way. He added that the Sheriff’s Department encourages residents to prepare for disasters by designating out of state contacts and individual preparedness. He announced that a new mounted search and rescue team had been established at the Lomita Station. He noted that school safety plans need to be developed along with pharmaceutical and supply sites, and pet/owner unification sites.
County Sheriff Disaster Worker Volunteer Program
John Douglas, Volunteer Program Coordinator for the County Sheriff’s Department, discussed available local resources including the Palos Verdes Peninsula CERT, Equine Response Team, Disaster Communications Service, Mounted Posse and Mounted Search and Rescue Unit. He reported that there were 450 trained disaster response volunteers on the Palos Verdes Peninsula who are registered state and/or county disaster service workers and who are prepared, trained and cross trained in response, care, communications, and safety and noted that they are very knowledgeable about their own neighborhood’s resources and needs.
Mr. Douglas clarified that PVP CERT is not a self-activating entity and that the teams are activated by being contacting by the Sheriff, Fire Department, or PVP CERT incident managers or can be activated through the Emergency Broadcast System.
Neighborhood Watch Emergency Preparedness Program
Gail Lorenzen, RPV Neighborhood Watch Coordinator, reported that after the events of September 11, 2001, RPV Neighborhood Watch became the residents’ emergency preparedness system because this organization has spent the last 15 years developing an effective communication system and the residents will be the first real responders during a disaster. She commented that neighbors made 90% of the rescues in the Northridge earthquake and she recommended that people should be prepared to be self-sustaining for 5-7 days.
Ms. Lorenzen reported that she and Deputy John Despot from the Lomita Sheriff’s Station have developed a neighborhood emergency preparedness program, which they have presented to the majority of neighborhoods that are members of Neighborhood Watch. As part of the program, she explained that one of her Block Captains has created a display illustrating exactly how to turn off utilities at the home. She added that they have recruited heavily from their membership for CERT and PVAN volunteers, as these individuals are the lifelines of the community in an earthquake. She reported that they distribute household survey forms, which indicate everything that is needed in an emergency and she pointed out that special needs residents must be considered. Ms. Lorenzen explained that every resident in the program is asked to sign up for one response team: an assessment team, a communications team or a special needs team. She noted that the assessment team assesses homes and families for injuries and infrastructure issues, checks their battery operated radio for emergency response information from the Sheriff’s Department, turns off utilities as needed and instructs people to turn off neighbor’s utilities if need be.
Ms. Lorenzen reported that Neighborhood Watch encourages residents after an earthquake or other disaster to put out a sign at their home indicating “OK” or “Help” before evacuating, as that will save a lot of time for first responders canvassing the neighborhood. She explained further that every neighborhood has a pre-designated meeting point where residents join their response teams and get to work. She pointed out that a frequently overlooked item is having an emergency preparedness kit for the office or in the car.
Ms. Lorenzen asserted that during a disaster driving should be minimized as it interferes with emergency vehicles and telephones should not be used unless for a life-threatening emergency as circuits are overloaded. She explained how Neighborhood Watch was organized and displayed a map of the City illustrating which areas were organized.
Because the representative from the Los Angeles County Health Department had to leave the meeting shortly, Mayor Wolowicz requested a delay in the remaining speakers from the Sheriff’s Department to allow this presentation to proceed.
5. County Department of Public Heath Role and Pandemic Flu Planning
Dr. John Talarico, Acting Director of County Public Health, spoke about the threat of pandemic influenza, noting that currently there is a bird flu that has the potential to be transmitted from human to human and if the virus mutates in this manner, there could be a pandemic or worldwide epidemic happening in multiple locations at the same time. He discussed three pandemics that occurred during the 20th century and commented that they parallel earthquakes because we know they will happen, but we just don’t know when and how extensive they will be.
Dr. Talarico explained the differences between pandemic flu and seasonal flu, noting that pandemics occur sporadically, there is little or no pre-existing immunity, healthy people of all ages may be at risk and a vaccine would not be immediately available. He stated that pandemics are inevitable, occur cyclically with little warning, occur simultaneously in many areas, can last weeks or months, disproportionately affect younger people and potentially cause high levels of sickness and death and disruption of services. He pointed out that with a serious incidence, resources would not be available and people would be unable to rely on mutual aid. He presented a scenario for a serious pandemic and indicated that there would be nowhere near enough hospital beds to care for the number of sick people and there would be great impacts on the health and social services system. He indicated that a pandemic may affect 25-30% of the workforce at one time and it is difficult to keep services going with 30% less staff, especially since there has already been so much downsizing. He emphasized the importance of planning as there is not enough inventory in pharmacies and grocery stores to last through a pandemic, and that public transportation could be severely affected by the reduction in staff.
Dr. Talarico reported that experts agree there will be a pandemic with a huge financial effect and Los Angeles County has been working on a plan for the last few years that is still evolving. He explained that the County’s plan is a supplement to the All Hazards Emergency Response Plan and it identifies coordinating and cooperating agencies and their respective response roles with the level of response based on what phase of the pandemic the County is in, as defined by the World Health Organization.
Dr. Talarico summarized each of the essential components of the LAC DHS Pandemic Flu Plan: surveillance, laboratory, vaccine delivery, antivirals, strategies to limit transmission, communication and emergency response. He also summarized planned projects for 2006-2007 which included provider communications, volunteer recruitment, lab expansion, LINK expansion (immunization registry), continuity of operations, community engagement, public education campaign, surge capacity, Mobile Emergency Management System feasibility/implementation, avian influenza surveillance of birds, flu clinics as points of distribution, special/vulnerable population assessment and planning, and healthcare provider education and training.
Councilman Gardiner questioned how long the pandemic was expected to last from start to finish.
Dr. Talarico reported that pandemics can last anywhere from 4-18 months, and that they tend to occur in waves and are unpredictable just like an earthquake.
Councilman Gardiner questioned whether the virus could mutate during the 4-18 month period.
Dr. Talarico acknowledged that the virus could mutate during that time period and initial lab testing would seek to determine the specific type of virus and whether it is susceptible to antivirals and further testing would monitor changes occurring in the virus as the pandemic progressed.
Councilmen Gardiner questioned whether there was anything a person could do to protect themselves.
Dr. Talarico explained that diligence with personal hygiene was important, such as routine washing hands, not going into work if you are sick so that illness is not being spread to colleagues, practicing good respiratory hygiene and getting flu shots.
Councilman Gardiner wanted to know whether once you have the illness you would then be immune to it.
Dr. Talarico indicated that one was not likely to get naturally occurring influenza of the same strain again, but noted that normal seasonal influenza typically has three strains.
Councilman Gardiner questioned how likely people were to get the virus.
Dr. Talarico explained that was hard to know until the virus had arrived, as they are very unpredictable. He noted that the Centers for Disease Control were monitoring the bird flu very carefully.
Councilman Gardiner asserted that as far as he was aware there were no known instances of transmission from human to human of the bird virus but people had caught it from birds and the death rate for those people is about 50%.
Dr. Talarico acknowledged that was true and he indicated that this was normal for a disease transmitted from animal to human, but if the virus mutates to be transmitted from human to human, the mortality level would probably decrease.
Chair Smith asked how additional information might be available for neighborhood emergency health centers.
Dr. Talarico reported that a feasibility study was being conducted on this topic and indicated that additional information was available on the Mobile Emergency Management System via the Internet.
Mayor Pro Tem Long questioned whether this was the type of virus that could be weaponized and purposefully introduced into the population.
Dr. Talarico acknowledged that it could theoretically be done but it would require a lot of expertise and no one believes terrorists have the ability to do that at the present time, although the potential is there.
Mayor Wolowicz questioned what kind of planning was already in place or had been proposed as to mobilization at the local levels. He commented that the Neighborhood Watch Coordinator had suggested that they might not want people on the streets during a catastrophe and he questioned whether that could be a command decision that would come down to the local Sheriff’s Department. Similarly, he noted that the use of veterinarians was discussed and he also suggested that awareness of people in the neighborhood that have medical training should be indicated. He asked Dr. Talarico about the coordination between County Health, Sheriff and Fire.
Dr. Talarico indicated that County Health, Sheriff and Fire are part of the same system and are already coordinated as part of a joint information center that will provide unified messages to the public. He added that this was all part of NIMS, which the County is compliant with. He noted that there will be representatives from Emergency Health Services at the County EOC and their communications systems are interoperable within the different agencies.
Mayor Wolowicz asked which facilities residents should go to if the local hospitals were overwhelmed.
Dr. Talarico indicated that 254 facilities had been pre-identified in the County, geographically dispersed with respect to their proximity to schools and hospitals.
Recess and Reconvene: Mayor Wolowicz called a brief recess from 9:49 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
At this point, Mayor Wolowicz called for the remaining presenters from the Lomita Sheriff’s Station volunteer programs.
Disaster Communication Service (DCS)
Dale Hanks, Rancho Palos Verdes DCS Operator, reported that he was the City’s Emergency Radio Operator and responsible for recruiting the 35 DCS volunteers in the City. He indicated that he reports to Bill Pomerantz, who is responsible for coordinating surrounding cities and he also reports in occasionally to the County EOC.
Mr. Hanks explained that DCS is used because it is flexible, reliable, and usually provides the only consistent means of communications during a disaster. With the aid of slides, he summarized earthquake procedures noting that immediately after an earthquake a roll call is taken of radio operators and the places that are silent are usually the hardest hit with not much information available for the first hour or more. He explained that after checking at their own home and their neighbors’ homes for problems, volunteers check the City radio frequencies, proceed to the City EOC, check with City officials and assign DCS members to their posts. He stated that DCS volunteers through the Sheriff’s Department and are prepared to offer communications if all other means have failed. He reported that if the disaster is less severe, DCS supplements the first responders’ communications or they can be posted at the evacuation centers and they often help in other capacities as volunteers helping direct traffic, surveying damage, or providing communications between local agencies, schools and the Sheriff.
Mr. Hanks indicated that the volunteers own their own equipment and keep it in working order with three different methods of backup power. He stated that the radio units are portable and can offer services to Lomita Station, the City Hall EOC, public and private schools, County Fire Stations, Libraries, Evacuation Centers, etc. He noted that they had provided services in many types of events including earthquakes, gas leaks, fires, a telephone outage, a plane crash, an attempted suicide victim search, and a 9-1-1 outage. He explained the procedures to join the organization, which included obtaining an amateur radio license, receiving training, and participating in the City’s monthly communications “net,” as well as in the PVP CERT training exercises typically held once per year.
Mr. Hanks explained that there is a radio building on City Hall property and antennas have been installed on each of the fire stations and schools so that if there is a disaster they can go to the location, hook up and be ready to go. Mr. Hanks indicated that there was a new radio room under construction at City Hall, and a proposed new communications tower will be a further improvement. He explained that DCS is working to equip libraries, schools, and City critical facilities, and that more amateurs ham radio operators and Neighborhood Watch recruits are needed.
Councilman Gardiner thanked the volunteers for their participation.
Vice Chair Weiner congratulated the Sheriff’s Department for identifying pharmaceutical supply distribution sites on the Peninsula. He explained that he serves as an officer on a FEMA Disaster Medical Assistance team and one of the busiest jobs he had during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was providing pharmaceuticals to people who had been displaced. He indicated that he was pleased that the Sheriff recognized the importance of this function and had procedures in place because it is frequently overlooked. He questioned whether the Sheriff had plans to restrict traffic coming onto the Peninsula to residents only during a disaster.
Sheriff Captain Zuanich explained that they did not have specific plans as that depends on whether the disaster routes are blocked or not.
Mayor Wolowicz received clarification from Captain Zuanich that in the event of an earthquake, the Sheriff’s Watch Commander takes immediate charge of the situation, gathers resources, makes assessments and then determines whether to activate PVP CERT. He acknowledged that elected officials are federally mandated to attend NIMS training and he received clarification from Area G Coordinator Martinet that the presentation did not satisfy that mandate. He indicated that he felt it was important that Council be made aware of what is available for that kind of training.
Mr. Martinet indicated that he had put together NIMS training for elected officials based on the Federal materials.
Mayor Wolowicz asked that Mr. Martinet relay this information to him via the City Manager. He observed that every time he heard about the City’s Neighborhood Watch program, he became more impressed by it and he was particularly impressed with the “OK/Help” signs. He questioned whether there was a way to get the information developed by Neighborhood Watch out to residents who are not members of this program.
Gail Lorenzen explained that nothing had been published, noting that she and Deputy Despot met one-on-one with residents since the point is to get to know your neighbors and working together.
Mayor Wolowicz questioned whether the City Manager or other City staff could help disseminate the information.
City Manger Evans asserted that if residents are interested in this program, they should have their neighborhoods join Neighborhood Watch and he suggested that Council members organize their own neighborhoods, as none of them live in areas where Neighborhood Watch has been established.
Mayor Wolowicz hoped there was a faster way to facilitate the information.
Committee Member Hughes noted some of the suggestions could be added to the section on emergency preparedness already included in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Telephone Directory and on the City’s website.
Councilman Gardiner questioned whether there was a budget to make the “OK/Help” signs and distribute them to residents.
Ms. Lorenzen explained that the sign she displayed that evening had come from a resident in the Seaview area, but indicated that residents can make their own signs because they do not need to be fancy.
Councilman Gardiner suggested making those signs available during the next City Fourth of July Celebration, as it would seem to be quite effective.
Mayor Wolowicz suggested that this was something the Emergency Preparedness Committee could take on as a project, as well as coming up with other ideas on where the signs could be distributed to the public.
Chair Smith agreed that the Emergency Preparedness Committee would take on the assignment and report back to Council.
Mayor Wolowicz added his thanks to Councilman Gardiner’s previous comments, noting that Council had seen an incredible display of volunteer efforts at this workshop and he commented that, as a resident, he was grateful that people were willing to give so much of their time and talent to the community.
Councilman Gardiner pointed out that when he complimented the volunteers, he did not mean to leave out the safety professionals, adding that none of this would be possible without such excellent Sheriff and Fire Departments.
Peninsula Volunteer Alert Network (PVAN)
Alan Soderberg, PVAN Coordinator, provided a summary of his background and qualifications. He explained that PVAN is a neighborhood emergency communications service, as opposed to DCS where members are assigned to other facilities and assist the Sheriff. He explained that PVAN was adopted by the Neighborhood Watch Emergency Preparedness Program because this organization saw a need to provide communications among Neighborhood Watch areas so that they could share resources and information during a disaster and would also to be able to request County and City services. He stated that as the program was developed, the EOC staff realized that PVAN could also be a resource for assessing damages and disseminating information to the neighborhoods.
Mr. Soderberg reported the 46 PVAN members have spent their own time and money to attend training classes to get their amateur radio license, taken the FCC examination and bought their own radios. He indicated that many of the members are not interested in it as a hobby but are interested in it just to provide emergency communications and a service to the City. He explained that after the members pass the FCC test, the Palos Verdes Radio Club provides assistance to new members in getting their radios and properly setting them up. He explained how to become a PVAN member, the requirements for participation and the procedures used during an earthquake, noting that if a PVAN member does not have all the resources to properly respond, they can ask for assistance. He indicated that during an incident, the PVAN Operator remains in their neighborhood and the Block Captain reports to the Operator with messages they want disseminated to City Hall or the Block Captain gets information from the PVAN Operator to the neighborhood. Mr. Soderberg presented a City map indicating where PVAN members are located, noting that there were a few gaps they were trying to fill in, particularly on the east side of the City. He commented that the proposed new tower and communications center at City Hall would help the northern area of the Peninsula but that communication on the east side is still a problem.
6. Palos Verdes Library District Emergency Preparedness Update
Dallas McMillan, Human Resources Manager, Palos Verdes Peninsula Library District (PVPLD), reported with the aid of slides that over the last 2 ½ years staff and volunteers had been trained in building evacuation and emergency response procedures. She indicated which library facilities contained Automated External Defibrillators, adding that there are 37 staff members trained in CPR/AED/First Aid. She reported that each library has a ham radio and there are 26 staff members trained to use them, 1 staff member is CERT trained, there are trauma and triage kits at each library and emergency water and food is available at each library. In conclusion, Ms. McMillan stated that the Library District Staff is trained in emergency response, that she has completed a disaster manual with detailed procedures and that PVPLD has been in contact with Belfor Property Restoration Company to handle the library materials following a disaster.
Vice Chair Weiner thanked the Library District for taking the initiative to put a comprehensive emergency plan together and he encouraged other organizations to contact PVPLD for advice on how to put together their own plan.
7. Palos Verdes Unified School District Emergency Preparedness Update
Pearl Iizuka, Deputy Superintendent of Business Services, presented the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District’s (PVPUSD) Disaster Mitigation Plan with the aid of slides, noting that the primary role for the School District in an emergency is to care for the safety and welfare of the children. She explained that the plan has site-specific emergency instructions and is updated annually as teachers and individuals change and that individual responsibilities clearly defined. She added that the plan was organized according to NIMS/SEMS guidelines and each year training is provided with drills and exercises conducted in the fall and a District-wide drill in the spring. She indicated that each school has ham radio capabilities and ICS training is available for administrators.
Ms. Iizuka presented the legal requirements of the Disaster Mitigation Plan and noted that PVPUSD had at least 72 hours of food and supplies at each campus, that they are prepared to shelter to the students, that they are prepared to use the school sites as Red Cross shelters and are also prepared, if necessary, to relocate the children to alternate sites. She indicated that a disaster container is located on campus containing food, water, supplies, and equipment and that the PTA volunteers take an inventory of the containers each year and the supplies are replenished or replaced, if necessary. She commented that PVPUSD also has generators, cots, port-a-potties and basic medical supplies, and that each classroom is equipped with has basic emergency supplies. Ms. Iizuka reported that each school has specific individuals who are responsible for different areas of the Incident Command System (ICS) and that the school’s principal is generally designated as the incident commander. In conclusion, she stated that different forms of communications are available and that during an emergency or disaster, PVPUSD would communicate and provide updates to the Lomita Sheriff’s Station EOC.
Recess and Reconvene: Mayor Wolowicz called a short recess from 10:50 p.m. to 10:57 p.m.
Mayor Pro Tem Long questioned procedures for reuniting worried parents with their children during an emergency or disaster.
Ms. Iizuka explained that there were procedures in place for reuniting parents with their children and that these procedures had been practiced during drills.
8. Utility Emergency Response
Marcella Low, Public Affairs Manager with the Gas Company, reported that the first level of response is a message center response, which is used for everyday emergencies, such as when a contractor hits a gas line, and that field personnel go out and address the message. She explained that Gas Emergency Centers (GEC) and Operating Bases provide support for emergencies like storms, landslides, fires, and earthquakes with logistical and communications support available. She indicated that Gas Company employees attend training annually and that the Emergency Operations Center handles major incidents, with the personnel at the Center receiving quarterly training and noted that a simulation exercise was recently conducted.
Mayor Pro Tem Long commented that large portions of the San Francisco marina were burning following the Loma Prieta earthquake and that there were gas fires after the Northridge earthquake. He asked whether there was a plan to turn off service for a large area in the event of a major catastrophe so that the Gas Company did not rely on residents to turn off the gas house-by-house.
Ms. Low indicated that they had that capability and that it was the function of the EOCs to decide if service should be turned off in a large area, because they had maps and could determine where the gas should be shut off.
Councilman Gardiner questioned how people would be notified once the gas was turned back on.
Ms. Low explained that the Gas Company would have to come out and turn the service back on individually and she pointed out that people should not turn the gas off unless they smell gas, hear gas leaking or otherwise deem it necessary.
Terry Tamble, District Manager for California Water Service, reported that after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, water utilities serving large communities were mandated to provide a vulnerability assessment plan and part of that exercise was to examine and update their Emergency Response Plan. He explained that the Emergency Response Plans are specific to the 24 districts within the state and that California Water Service identified many different scenarios for emergency preparedness including pandemic influenza and how to maintain facilities with a heavily depleted staff. He indicated that there are three field operations centers in the local area and the Palos Verdes office is equipped with standby emergency generators and portable diesel pumps ready to operate if electrical power is lost. He stated that earthquake retrofits have been prepared for key reservoir sites and some reservoirs have been equipped with flexible fittings. Mr. Tamble commented that hydrant pads have been installed so the County Fire Department can access water in key locations and that some reservoir sites can also be used by the Fire Department.
Mr. Tamble reported that California Water Service has its own state-certified water quality laboratory, which reduces turn around time for water quality monitoring. He stated that they have the ability to bring resources and employees from other service areas as well as a first call agreement with Doty Brothers Equipment Company, a major pipeline company, in the event of a major water line break. He indicated that they are continually working to improve communications and are currently working on an automatic emergency notification system, which unfortunately is proving to be very costly.
Mr. Tamble reported that almost all of their vehicles have two-way radio units but noted that reception can be a problem on the Peninsula and commented that they would be looking into training people at their offices in the use of ham radios. He indicated that their Water Supply Master Plan seeks to improve the reliability of their existing system on the Peninsula and reported that they are currently working on a plan to bring an additional pipeline onto the Peninsula, as 85% of the demand is currently supplied through only one pipeline. Further, he stated that areas around the Peninsula have been identified as sites to install additional small reservoirs and he indicated that they have a scenario for earthquake emergency preparedness that is derived from the Emergency Response Plan, which directs company employees to go to critical facilities on the Peninsula following an earthquake to assess the condition of the reservoirs and the pipelines and assess the next steps to be taken, if required.
Councilman Gardiner questioned how much water was in the main reservoir to support the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
Mr. Tamble explained that the Peninsula relied entirely on imported water, which is supplied through the Metropolitan Water District, as there is no ground water available in this area. He indicated that there are approximately 30 million gallons stored in locations that are spread out over the Peninsula and that there is a 1 ½ to 3-day supply of water possible if conservation is implemented.
Councilman Gardiner questioned whether water rationing would take effect.
Mr. Tamble explained that they had developed communication plans where instructions would be disseminated to the public to conserve water and not to use it for any unnecessary uses.
Councilman Gardiner suggested that residents be instructed to stop watering their lawns in such a situation.
Mr. Tamble agreed that in an emergency, water should not be used for landscape irrigation.
Committee Member Hughes noted that in the 1960s and 1970s there was a discussion of providing deep water wells for the Peninsula.
Mr. Tamble indicated that to his knowledge there had not been pumping on the Peninsula nor was there a plan to develop groundwater in the 1960s. He noted that California Water Service purchased the system from Palos Verdes Water in 1970. He explained that the Peninsula is like a rock and that ground water is generally only available in the flatlands. He did recall that Palos Verdes Water had old well sites at the intersection of Anaheim Street and Gaffey Street in the City of Los Angeles, and that they used to pump water up the hill from this location, but that those wells have not been in use for a long time.
Committee Member Hughes questioned whether there was any possibility of tapping into ground water at this location in the future.
Mr. Tamble explained that ground water rights first have to be available and that there is a limited supply of groundwater available to pump. He stated that after the water is pumped out of the ground, it has to be brought all the way up to the top of the Peninsula, which is very expensive, and that this is already was is happening with the imported water.
Mr. Hughes noted that a major earthquake would interrupt both major supplies providing water to the Peninsula and he hoped that residents would have some emergency access to groundwater in the Peninsula.
Mr. Tamble explained that it would be very expensive to develop the necessary infrastructure and he noted that there were plans to bring in recycled water in to supplement the potable water supply.
Mayor Pro Tem Long related that there had been excessive groundwater pumping in Torrance resulting in saltwater intrusion and that fresh water is now having to be imported and re-injected into the ground to counteract the salt water plume.
Mr. Tamble explained that the Water Replenishment District spreads water into the ground, and also Los Angeles County, has a barrier project where they inject recycled and potable water to keep the salt water intrusion from coming further inland and contaminating the fresh groundwater basins.
Councilman Gardiner questioned how much groundwater was pumped out of the City’s landslide area on a daily basis.
City Manager Evans indicated that the dewatering wells pumped approximately 250,000 gallons per day, which was is not very much water.
Councilman Gardiner indicated that water could be used in an emergency for residents.
City Manager Evans explained that the water would have to be treated first.
Councilman Gardiner suggested that it would be worthwhile to do a quick study to see what it would take to make the output of the de-watering wells potable.
City Manager Evans indicated that those studies had been done.
Ex Officio Member Karp questioned whether the hydrants would be supplied by gravity feed for fire protection.
Mr. Tamble explained that the hydrants would be available until the water was gone.
Scott Gobble, Region Manager for Southern California Edison (SCE), asserted that their primary concern is safety and he indicated that if wires and poles and trees are down, and noted that SCE asks residents to keep away from downed electrical wires and poles. He indicated that he had heard it mentioned earlier in the meeting that people were not to use the telephones following an emergency, but noted the SCE wants to hear from residents where wires are down.
Mr. Gobble stated that SCE did not encourage customers to turn off their electric main. He explained that SCE works with the City’s Public Works Department to clear the downed trees and wires out of the way in order to clear access onto the Peninsula. He indicated that SCE has as a first line of response to get as much power restored as possible to an area or to identify problems and work with emergency services personnel first to get power restored.
Mr. Gobble agreed that residents should have emergency supplies to sustain their family for 5-7 days because in a major emergency chances are that power will not be restored for a considerable amount of time. He explained that SCE has 3 levels of emergencies: Level One, power can be restored within 24 hours in the area using local resources; Level Two, power can be restored within 48 hours with the local resources and maybe a little extra help; and Level Three is a major emergency with additional resources called in.
Mr. Gobble indicated that SCE serves a 50,000 square mile area and there are use agreements in place with other utilities to get additional help if needed. He reported that SCE has sent crews to other places in the country to help during disasters and those crews would in turn help SCE. He urged residents that have emergency back up generators for their homes to test them every month. He added that SCE provides annual emergency training for their personnel, including their communications systems and use many methods to communicate with their field crews. He encouraged the Council to have a separate forum on utility company emergency response plans, as there is much more information available than can be presented in the context of this workshop.
Committee Member Hughes pointed out that it was required by law that if you have an emergency generator and tie it into your house power that you must have an automatic disconnect from your electrical main.
Mr. Gobble explained that Mr. Hughes was talking about possible “back feed” into SCE’s network and he indicated that they did not encourage people to have generators hooked directly into their homes. He indicated that people who have systems like that have an emergency shut off that automatically separates the electrical panel from a piece of equipment that is not manually operated and that the shut off needs to be maintained as well. He noted that people with the small generators do not need to run them through the home’s main electrical panel.
Mayor Wolowicz acknowledged that more time was necessary to fully discuss the issue of utility emergency response plans properly.
John Adkins, County Sewer Maintenance District, explained that during a disaster they operate through the County of Los Angeles EOC and have teams of public works employees available to communicate with the EOC. He reported that their employees are trained on an annual basis, they are NIMS compliant, and that the District has its own emergency response plan and is on call 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. He summarized the District’s emergency procedures, noting that additional help is available from other departments, and if County resources are not available, contractors are available who are on call for emergency situations. He added that equipment could be brought in from other states as well, if needed.
9. Nonprofit Disaster Assistance Organizations
Major Charles Gillies, Los Angeles Coastal Area Coordinator with the Salvation Army, explained that his district covers the area from Santa Monica to San Pedro and distributed a handout about the Salvation Army. He explained that the Salvation Army is not a disaster relief organization but by tradition and inclination it finds itself serving at the point of greatest need in a disaster. He reported that they are an international movement with emergency services usually funded by special appeals and that their primary job is to serve the first responders with whatever they need at the point of need when it is needed.
Major Gillies reported that there is an emergency canteen located in Torrance and there is also a refrigerated truck that can be used for various purposes. He noted that 2-3 days is a local response, after 3–14 days the Southern California division comes in to help and beyond that it becomes a national event and those resources can be tapped. He reported that the Salvation Army has five serving kitchens in the area along with the Crestmont College facility located in Rancho Palos Verdes, and that there are also vehicles to assist where needed. He commented that the Salvation Army has provided emergency feeding and support services for disasters in the past and he reported that they had assisted in the recent Bluegrass Airport Plane Crash.
Vice Chair Weiner questioned whether there were facilities to house people working at the City’s EOC at the Crestmont College facility if these people were unable to travel back and forth to their homes.
Major Gillies thought that sounded like a good idea but noted that he was unable to speak for the Crestmont facility and he suggested that the City speak with Major Reyes about Vice Chair Weiner’s proposal.
Councilman Stern thanked everyone for the valuable information provided.
Councilman Gardiner questioned how deaths would be handled in an emergency and he pointed out that critical stress management might be a topic for discussion at some point in the future, as there is great mental stress put on rescue workers.
Chair Smith suggested having another workshop devoted to that topic would be useful.
Mayor Wolowicz indicated that he could not promise another workshop like this but he welcomed any additional information that could be forwarded to the Council.
Mayor Pro Tem Long suggested that the City consider adding supplies to its emergency caches that deal with some of the more unpleasant situations, such as handling the deceased and sanitation issues. He asked how much financial aid Rancho Palos Verdes had received so far from the Federal government for emergency preparedness due to the City’s proximity to the Port of Los Angeles.
Assistant to the City Manager Park reported that Rancho Palos Verdes had received approximately $80,000 in grant funds from the Department of Homeland Security.
Mayor Pro Tem Long pointed out that equated to about ½ of 1% of the City’s annual budget. He noted that 40% of Homeland Security money is allocated equally to each state regardless of its population size and that the City is located next to the largest port in the United States, which brings in about 40% of the country’s import goods. He suggested that residents express concern to Congressman Rohrbacher and the state senators that the City is not receiving more financial aid from the federal government for emergency preparedness.
Chair Smith reported that representatives from Congressman Rohrbacher’s office had been in contact with the Emergency Preparedness Committee about trying to put together a substantial set of requirements that they might put forward for them, but noted that the Committee had not yet been able to respond to this request.
Ex Officio Member Karp reported that under the SIMS program there is a coroner’s plan to bring in body bags and refrigerated vehicles. He noted that the telephone companies and Cox cable had not been represented at this workshop and although it is assumed that those services would not be working following a disaster, he wanted to know what plans these utilities had in place to reinstate services.
Mayor Wolowicz noted this was quite an impressive display of attendees and he questioned why representatives from the telephone and cable companies were not present.
Assistant to the City Manager Park reported that many people were still on summer vacation and those companies had not responded to her inquiry.
Mayor Wolowicz commented that this workshop was an unprecedented and historical gathering and that Council had received much new information from many different sources. He expressed gratitude to those who continue to work on improving the community’s emergency preparedness.
Councilman Gardiner indicated that the message he took away from the meeting was that the bottom line is that you are on your own for 3-5 days following a major disaster. He suggested that residents make a list and gather the emergency supplies they will need. He also proposed that a program about emergency preparedness be produced for broadcast on RPV Channel 33.
Mayor Wolowicz suggested that the videotape of this evening’s workshop could be presented on RPV Channel 33 and be repeated several times.
Mayor Pro Tem Long commented that the majority of residents did not have earthquake insurance but he felt it was a good value to purchase it. He reported paying a little over $60 per month for $400,000 of coverage and he added that part of mitigating for the loss is not counting on governmental aid because that comes in the form of loans, not grants, so he felt that one way to be prepared is to look seriously at buying earthquake insurance.
Councilman Gardiner encouraged the Mayor Pro Tem to do a RPV Channel 33 City Talk program about earthquake insurance because even though the companies could run out of money to cover losses, the alternative is worse.
Chair Smith stated that he felt the meeting was a worthwhile effort and he thanked Mayor Wolowicz for making it happen.
Mayor Wolowicz thanked the City Manager and staff for coordinating the presentations and noted that if there was a welling up of interest, Council might consider hosting a similar meeting in the future.
At 11:48 P.M., Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Long, to adjourn the meeting. Hearing no objection, Mayor Wolowicz ordered the meeting adjourned