THE LATEST ON EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS
The big storm of December, 2007 has shifted the City's and Fire District's focus on emergency preparedness and management from an earthquake/tsunami to major storms where the power is out, roads are temporarily closed, communications with the outside world are interupted and at least one of our shelters need to be opened. This has raised several questions about our community's needs and how we plan for not only earthquakes and tsunamis but major storm events as well.
As a result, at the City Council's annual retreat in February, they established 5 goals for 2008-09 relating to our community's emergency preparedness. They are:
1) Reorganize the City's emergency preparedness committees.
2) Organize a program for volunteers to go door-to-door during major storms.
3) Establish a stock of pre-positioned supplies.
4) Investigate local broadcast capability.
5) Secure portable shelter arrangements for major events.
The December storm event and the above goals have caused several questions to be raised that need to be answered.
1) Can the City's E-Prep Committee, made up of 5 citizen-volunteers, continue to absorb what has become an increased work load in preparing for a emergency events?
2) Should the City and Fire District depend on more volunteers to shoulder the emergency preparedness load and if so, how should their planning efforts be organized?
3) Will this community be able to count on any help from the outside world in the aftermath of a major event? If not, how long should we plan to fend for ourselves?
4) Can our community continue to depend on the Red Cross to help out with our emergency shelters? If not, what is the most effective means of supplying and organizing an appropriate number of volunteers to keep our shelters running?
5) What is the best way to communicate with Cannon Beach citizens before and during an event?
6) How can we check on disadvantaged citizens in their homes with our small number of emergency personnel?
7) Should the City hire an employee to help complement and organize those volunteers who have recently joined the community's emergency preparedness effort?
8) How can the City and Fire District handle what could be hundreds or even thousands of visitors who may be stranded here after a major event? And if something was to happen to our emergency shelters, what could we do to provide for shelter and other basic needs for all those people?
9) How does the community plan for rebuilding should a major disaster damage our homes, businesses and infrastructure?
10) What effect will the the new state tsunami inundation zone lines have on evacuation and other emergency planning issues?
The answers to these questions are currently being discussed and worked on at various levels and, so far, this much can be determined:
The City's Emergency Preparedness Committee has done a great job of planning evacuations, educating the public and setting up shelters for almost a decade. They will also have a lot to say about question #10 above. But more is needed to complement their activities in order to plan for major storms and other events.
As a result, the City has formed a Shelter Committee to further organize up to 3 emergency shelters while concentrating on major storm events. Once preparation for future storms is settled, emphasis will be placed on more serious events. This new committee has met several times since December and has determined that we need to plan on fending for ourselves for several days. Some pre-positioned supplies have been ordered from the Red Cross and any help from them or other outside agencies will be welcome but not anticipated.
The City and Fire District are investigating the use of portable shelters should a major event render our 3 emergency shelters unsuitable. This raises the question of where these shelters can be stored and where they can be set up in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. In addition, the City's Budget Committee is wrestling with whether a part-time employee is needed (and affordable) to help with volunteer recruiting and training, organizing neighborhoods and communicating with citizens during a major storm or tsunami event. Finally, the City has formed a Resiliency Committee to plan for rebuilding the community and infrastructure after an earthquake/tsunami has hit Cannon Beach.
Much work has been done before and subsequent to the December storm but much more needs to be done especially in the areas of neighborhood organization and communications with residents. Many community-minded volunteers have stepped up to help out and offer suggestions. I invite you to do the same by calling me at (503) 436-8050 or emailing me at the address above.