The meeting was called to order at 6:00 P.M. by Mayor Wolowicz at Fred Hesse Community Park, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard, notice having been given with affidavit thereto on file, and was immediately recessed into closed session. The meeting reconvened at 7:02 P.M.
City Council roll call was answered as follows:
PRESENT: Gardiner, Long, Stern and Mayor Wolowicz
Emergency Preparedness Committee roll call was answered as follows:
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