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Disaster preparedness a work in progress

Submitted by on 1, April 20, 2011 – 12:01 amNo Comment

Alameda Fire Department brass offered the City Council an update Tuesday on efforts they’re making to better prepare the city for when the next disaster strikes.

Council members had requested the update in response to community concerns about the city’s level of preparedness that followed the recent Japan earthquake and the tsunamis that followed.

Division Chief Rick Zombeck said the department is working to better prepare residents to take care of themselves when disaster strikes, and also to bolster its efforts to communicate with people during an emergency.

The department has trained 17 Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) across the Island and is building a new program, Map Your Neighborhood, to help neighbors network and to serve as a feeder to the CERT training program. And it has initiated efforts to create a communications plan.

But council members questioned the effectiveness of other efforts, including the installation of the new Code Red telephone notification system. Zombeck said his department is just beginning to talk to police about expanding the use of the system and that few people have put their contact information into the system, which is voluntary.

Council members also questioned whether the city is prepared to deal with a lack of water to fight fires in the event of a disaster that wrecks the city’s water lines. Zombeck said the department has looked into purchasing a tanker truck that would carry water to a fire if it isn’t otherwise available. But that costs money.

“We know East Bay MUD will have a lot of breaks in their system” if there’s a major earthquake, Zombeck said.

Councilwoman Beverly Johnson asked if the fire department has figured out how they will address Alameda’s post-disaster needs in the event of a major disaster that prevents public safety workers who don’t live on the Island from getting here. She issued similar concerns when a report asked how prepared the Island is in the wake of the Japan quake.

“That’s something we do recognize, and we’re working on it,” Zombeck said Tuesday.

During the earlier interview, Johnson said she would like to see the city develop an evacuation plan.

Councilwoman Lena Tam asked Zombeck if the department has looked at backing up computer files off-site after Mayor Marie Gilmore questioned whether there are plans to keep businesses open and running after a disaster. Gilmore stressed that people need to be prepared to care for themselves in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, storing water, food and supplies; planning an escape route in the event of a home fire; and designating an out of state contact.

“These are things we can do as individuals to help ourselves be helpful to our community,” Gilmore said.

Anyone interested in information about the Map Your Neighborhood program can call the Alameda Fire Department at 337-2127 and leave a message.

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