Archive for Thursday, September 15, 2005

Katrina moves city,county to contemplate worst-case scenarious

September 15, 2005

With the destruction of Hurricane Katrina still fresh in the minds of the nation, city officials consider the unthinkable -- a natural disaster hitting Eudora.

"The city of Eudora now is dependent on Douglas County for emergency management for a major disaster," said Eudora city administrator Cheryl Beatty. "However, we are in the process of writing our own disaster management plan and will be receiving additional training from, and coordinating with, Douglas County to implement disaster drills, reviews, et cetera."

The city solidified its willingness to work with the county in a recent city council meeting.

Last month, the council heard a report from Paula Phillips, director of the Douglas County Emergency Management department. Phillips urged the council to agree to take part in a countywide emergency management mitigation plan.

"The purpose of the mitigation plan is to ensure the county and all the cities in the county have agreed upon a plan to lessen the impact of the disasters within the cities or within the county," Phillips said.

If a mitigation plan were in place, should a natural disaster strike, then Eudora would be eligible to apply for a presidential disaster area grant.

"In the event of another flood like we had in '93 and people are flooded out because of the flood, and if any government structures are also negatively affected by the flood, we can apply for a presidential decree of disaster," Phillips said in a later interview.

If the president grants the decree, then any money the city would spend to repair the disaster is subject to 75 percent reimbursement from the federal government.

In the case of evacuation, Phillips said the county has a general plan but would leave the local burden to the Eudora Police Department.

Eudora police chief Greg Dahlem said the police would be able to handle evacuating the town if necessary, but he has other concerns should a natural disaster hit.

"My only concern would be, depending where the major damage was over, my only concern would be finding a site which is suitable to work out of," Dahlem said.

The county has a mobile command center, but if multiple areas in the county were hit at the same time, then there would still be an issue, Dahlem said.

The county is revamping its own evacuation plans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which leaves more specific planning up to the city.

Phillips said she strongly encourages the effort, as Beatty works with officials to line out who would be in charge in an emergency situation.

"We have staff that has already been trained in disaster management and I believe, with what I know so far with our current staff, that we will do a good job with handling a disaster," Beatty said. "As we can learn from the Katrina disaster, coordination of activities is a very, very important key to success."

The city is working on plans for a range of disaster scenarios.

"On initial review of our disaster potential, we believe our largest threats are tornado, flood and earthquake, followed by ice storms, large explosion/fire, and hazardous chemical spills," Beatty said.

Given a disaster does strike, Beatty won't be lost.

"I have experienced a flood and ice storm disasters," Beatty said.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.