By Joe Naiman
The 2003 and 2007 wildfires in Ramona and other parts of the county exposed vulnerabilities in the county’s disaster recovery system, a reason San Diego County Board of Supervisors want an updated disaster plan.
Also, the earthquake in Japan last month showed a need for post-disaster planning, the supervisors agreed on Tuesday, when they directed Chief Administrative Officer Walter Eckard to report back within 60 days with on an “Advanced Post-Disaster Recovery Initiative” that encompasses efforts already under way as well as new initiatives necessary to provide a comprehensive program the county could adopt before a disaster to enhance recovery after that disaster.
“Our goal is to be the best prepared we can be,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “Our region has learned valuable lessons regarding disaster preparedness, disaster recovery.”
The county has implemented programs for disaster response in the past and has taken some steps to improve disaster recovery such as helping to create and fund the Red Guide to Disaster Recovery.
The Advanced Post-Disaster Recovery Initiative will cover four key components of recovery: helping individual citizens recover, restoring community lifelines, rebuilding community fabric and readying a trained workforce to conduct recovery activities in a community.
“By acting now to prepare for the worst, we’ll be ready to get our citizens and communities back on their feet,” said Supervisor Bill Horn. “When it comes to disasters we think in terms of when and not if.”
Elements of the Advanced Post-Disaster Recovery Initiative include establishing contracts in advance for post-disaster activities, planning for quick economic recovery, having mechanisms in place to assist individual victims quickly, and establishing programs for rapid restoration of lifeline infrastructure such as water, communication, power and transportation.
“As we’re seeing in Japan, the anatomy of a disaster is never simple,” Horn said. “Japan is seeing firsthand that disaster recovery is just as important as preparedness and response.”
The steps in the initiative include pre-qualifying vendors who would be needed for post-disaster cleanup, developing detailed plans for post-disaster local assistance centers, working with banks to establish mobile automated teller machines in areas left without electrical power, and training staff to perform post-disaster activities.