San Pablo forming emergency services
City establishes support groups
Published: Thursday, October 15, 2009
Updated: Thursday, October 15, 2009 06:10
Planning ahead can bring about a significant difference in one's life and the lives of others around him or her, and in many cases, it is important enough to be made a priority.
The same relates to planning ahead for a major disaster, including the most commonly feared in California — earthquakes. Preparation is time critical not only individually, but also collectively for a city, town or state.
Emergency plans are in place for the city of San Pablo, ensuring all activities run efficiently, smoothly and as orderly as possible in an emergency, city officials say.
Referred to as the Emergency Operations Plans, it is currently in revision with an updated version due to be published by the end of the year, San Pablo City Manager Brock Arner said.
With that said, the responsibility of getting these actions to happen fall upon the shoulders of the disaster preparedness coordinators, he said.
For the city of San Pablo, the disaster preparedness coordinator is Andrea Ignacio-Barter, who shares some of the many tasks she is responsible for.
"My job is to prepare our community for any disaster and everything that entails," Barter said.
She said some of the layers of responsibility in both her and Gerk's position include: effectively and efficiently mitigating; preparing for and responding to emergencies within her jurisdictions; working collaboratively with partners at all governmental levels, community-based organizations and private industry in advance to accomplish the first goal; equipping staff with the proper training and equipment; and building awareness, increasing outreach and providing training to the community, so it is able to sustain itself before, during and after an emergency.
Along with the many tasks that come under an Emergency Operations Plan, there is a disaster team, consisting of individuals from each city department.
"I have confidence in the emergency team. They have not been tested by a major emergency, but I have confidence in the staff," Arner said.
Carter said there is a city safety committee that includes representatives from each city department.
"A copy of the Emergency Operations Plan is kept with each one," Ignacio-Barter said.
He said the city should have a city disaster council, made up of the mayor, city manager, department heads and others.
A clearinghouse, called the Emergency Operations Center, is used for direct response to the community in case of an emergency or disaster situation and exists for the city of San Pablo, located on the ground floor of the San Pablo Police Department, Ignacio-Barter said.
Taking the lessons from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the city of San Pablo is now proactive and has applied for grant funds to mitigate infrastructure for city-owned property, Ignacio-Barter said.
He said buildings are being brought up to code and new ones in construction are required to be, thus limiting damage, so that the structure can survive a major earthquake.
Continuous and constant communication and coordination is kept with other agencies such as the American Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), 211 and others, well in advance of a disaster, Ignacio-Barter said.
"There is constant coordination and collaboration with all of our partners ahead of time," he said. "It's a rule of thumb not to use a disaster to learn who your partners or resources are."
The public, however, is encouraged to become self-sufficient in planning for emergency situations. Periodically, Pacific Gas and Electric and other utility operations provide guidance for the home in case of a major emergency.
Tips from the guides include such information as emphasis on the need and directions on how to strap one's water heater to the wall, preventing it from tipping backward.
Arner stresses the importance of families putting together what is called the 72-Hour Emergency Supply Kit. It is individually tailored to meet the basic survival needs of each family for three days to a week, he said.
"We want the public to take action and take care of themselves," Arner said.
Suggested storage is a 32-gallon trash can and may contain items from battery-powered radios and first aid kits, to sanitation items and nonperishable food items. More information on how to set up the kit can be found at www.72hours.org.
The city of San Pablo participates in many community events, using a Comcast channel and other resources listed on its Web site to build awareness and increase outreach about the local hazards in the area, Arner said.
Presentations are also made upon request through CERT, available in English and Spanish, promoting responsiveness in the event of a disaster, he said.
In addition, the Contra Costa Community College District has developed an emergency plan headed by Emergency Services Coordinator Ted Terstegge also covering an array of emergencies from aircraft collisions through weather emergencies.
Event-specific guidelines are provided that include what to do during an earthquake, if one becomes trapped as a result of an earthquake and what steps to take afterward, Terstegge said.
Training for emergencies occurs through CERT, which educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may possibly impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations, Terstegge said.
CERT members can also assist others in their neighborhood or workplace, should the situation arise where professional responders are not immediately available to help.