Thursday, September 4, 2008

Prep for November disaster drill

unedited july 08 tahoe mt. news

By Kathryn Reed

Seiche – add it to your vocabulary because one is coming.
The wave that occurs in a lake after a seismic event is predicted to hit South Lake Tahoe sometime Nov. 6. That 20-foot wall of water will arrive after a substantial subterranean earthquake strikes Mount Rose. A large chunk of that mountain will cascade into Lake Tahoe.
This isn’t some sci-fi movie script. It’s something scientists in the region have been studying and predicting will occur.
The governor’s Office of Homeland Security isn’t waiting for the real thing to strike before ensuring people are prepared for the mega-disaster.
South Lake Tahoe officials approached the state office about two years ago, well before the Angora Fire, seeking assistance with its emergency preparedness model.
The seiche will test the region.
On June 26 more than 60 people gathered at Embassy Suites to formulate a plan. The six tables represented a key sector in any disaster: local emergency responders, hospital personnel, public-environmental health, animal advocates, utilities, and state agencies.
Besides South Lake Tahoe, every county around the Lake is likely to be involved, departments of transportation, major land holders like the U.S. Forest Service and state parks, Cal Fire, Red Cross, humane societies, and all public safety departments. Mono and Inyo counties are also participating in what’s called Golden Guardian 2008.
“Whether it’s Mother Nature or terrorist events, they don’t care about state lines,” said Steve Turner, with the state Office of Homeland Security, when indicating Nevada agencies are involved as well. “We need to focus on the mission, not the agencies.”
The thrust of that Thursday’s activities was for the people at the table to figure out what they would have to do on the first day, then for the second through tenth days, and then for recovery efforts.
Jim Woodward with the state Office of Homeland Security is planning the exercise. He said even though the people involved will have thought out nearly every contingency, they will be faced with curveballs during the event, just like in a real disaster. This will test how they adapt, react and handle the unknowns.
“This really is an exercise, not a plan you just dust off,” Turner said.
Communication – with each other, their own people and the public – will be a common goal of each group from the get-go. This is something that was lacking in the early stages of last summer’s Angora Fire.
Some of the participants voiced a desire to have the public more involved, if just by letting them know what to do in a disaster – what supplies to have, what to take, where to go, how not to add to the chaos.
A smaller, separate group is looking at devising a community guide that could be updated annually with key telephone numbers and addresses.

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