‘We never know what disaster can hit us’

Long Beach, Signal Hill officials say cities are prepared for potential crises

The recent increase in nuclear-war rhetoric between President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un has caused some concern over the sensitive topic.

As world leaders work to disarm the tension, Long Beach officials have certain steps in place for citizens to follow in the event of a major emergency– natural or man-made.

The Disaster Preparedness Bureau and Emergency Communications Department in Long Beach are in charge of planning, coordinating and managing disaster preparedness. The bureau also oversees mitigation, response and recovery operations during times of city-wide crisis.

The bureau provides a comprehensive program in which it prepares citizens and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to respond to incidents and return to “normalcy” as quickly as possible.

NGOs include school districts, hospitals, transportation agencies, utility companies and the American Red Cross.
The bureau is tasked with being the liaison between county, state and federal agencies responsible for emergency management. That includes the Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management (OEM), California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The Signal Tribune reached out Aug. 11 via email to Reggie Harrison, director of the Long Beach Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Communications Office. He stated that citizens should follow three main steps to be prepared for an emergency.

The first is to coordinate an emergency preparedness plan. That includes a communications strategy to notify family members outside of the area and to check in on loved ones. The first step recommends citizens to take first-aid and CPR classes through the American Red Cross and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

Once a communication plan is established, the second step is to keep five to 10 days worth of food, water and emergency supplies stored nearby.

Harrison said citizens’ third step should be to register with AlertLongBeach– the City’s emergency notification system– to receive free messages during a crisis. The system is designed to keep those who live or work in Long Beach informed before, during and after a major emergency or disaster.

Alert messages are sent to designated cell phone numbers, email addresses and text devices. Residents can sign up for AlertLongBeach at longbeach.gov/disasterpreparedness/alert-long-beach/.

Harrison said the training of emergency response assets is designed to cover any type of crisis.

“We take an ‘all-hazards’ and comprehensive approach to emergency planning. While an earthquake is the most probable disaster for this area, we also train for potential floods, heat waves, terrorist attacks and other natural and man-made disasters,” his statement reads. “A number of our existing disaster plans, training events and exercises would be applicable across a broad range of potential disasters.”

Long Beach officials adhere to the National Incident Management System developed by the Department of Homeland Security to guide departments and agencies at the federal, state and local levels.

He mentioned that non-governmental organizations and the private sector work together to manage incidents involving all threats and hazards regardless of the cause, size or location.

The bureau also coordinates the efforts of the Disaster Management Area F, which includes the cities of Long Beach, Avalon and Signal Hill.

In a phone interview with Signal Tribune Wednesday, Signal Hill Councilmember Lori Woods said that, when she was mayor, she focused on public safety and preparedness. She contributed to the Signal Tribune with a weekly column called “Home, Safe Home,” in which she detailed the American Red Cross’s tips to be ready in the event of a disaster.
Since 2013, Signal Hill officials designated an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) coordinator. Currently, Richard Johnson oversees the EOC position from the Signal Hill Police Department, according to Woods.

“Richard has brought us up to speed on all our FEMA requirements and all our disaster-preparedness reporting and planning,” Woods said.

Signal Hill is FEMA-compliant, which means that in the event of an emergency the City does not have to access additional channels to receive FEMA aid or reimbursement.

Woods said the City has 30 CERT members on standby. Those members go through quarterly training to stay updated on life-saving skills, according to the councilmember.

The newest protocol being used to prepare for an emergency is the Map Your Neighborhood program. The 30 CERT members are trained to use the program to help prioritize aid to those who need it most.

The nine-step protocol pamphlet includes a double-sided sign– one side reads “help,” and the other reads “OK.”

The sign is designed to be placed on windows of homes to notify first-responders where their assistance is needed.

“We never know what disaster can hit us,” Woods said. “Whether it is a threat from North Korea or a commonplace earthquake here in the region, I think it would be silly of us to not think those disasters could hit us as well.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *