City Manager's Blog

The City Manager's Blog is an online educational tool to provide general information to the community in open communication style. Periodically, the City Manager will post articles of general interest covering topics such as the Town's budget, budget process, capital projects, upcoming meetings, community issues, public safety, and general Town operations.

Articles in the blog are not designed as press releases or Town publications, rather, they are written in more of a conversational style. The Blog does not have a comments feature but readers are free to respond to the Blog and its entries view email directly to the City Manager.

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Oct 16

Earthquake! (This is a drill...this is only a drill...)

Posted on October 16, 2014 at 3:14 PM by grodericks grodericks

Earthquake Exercise - California Shake-Out 2014

54027d0baa5ea.preview-620.jpgDid you feel it? That familiar shaking and rolling of the ground beneath your feet? The rattling of the doors and windows? The clinking of the china in the cabinet? The car and security alarms set off for no reason? Did you feel it? We did. At 10:16 today the Town participated in the Great California Shake-Out. We ducked. We covered. And we held. And then we responded. 

For the last year the Town has been judiciously exercising its emergency operations center and today, as one of the only communities in San Mateo County - we conducted a live drill.

Residents in Lindenwood practiced their organized response teams. They pulled out disaster trailers and supplies. They practiced inspecting homes for damage. They practiced an evacuation and their call-out roster. They practiced contacting the Town's Emergency Operations Center and "reporting in" following a local disaster. As a neighborhood, Lindenwood is prepared. How about yours?

eqarthquake.jpgDo you know where to go if you lose power? Water? If there's a fire and you need to evacuate, who would you contact? Do you have your own earthquake kit in your car? Garage? Is it accessible? What's in it? Is it outdated? If you need help from someone in your neighborhood, how would you get it? Do you have a neighborhood group? A phone tree? What about reporting to the Town on behalf of your neighborhood? Who does that? Why is that important? 

EOC.jpgToday (and remember this is a drill), Town staff exercised its emergency operations center. We simulated a 5.8 earthquake along the Northwest fork of the San Jose Fault. The fault passes through the Town of Atherton approximately under El Camino Real (yes this actually exists). The fault has been inactive for approximately 1.6 million years and has been largely ignored as a result. Immediately following the earthquake staff ducked, covered, and held. After checking to their immediate surroundings, staff then proceeded to the Town's Emergency Operations Center and began "responding" to the incident.

EOC2.JPGThat's not the Town's Emergency Operations Center in the photo above. Ours is shown here to the left. Hopefully within the new planned Civic Center, we'll be able to design a more appropriately sized EOC for the Town. The folks in the room in the photo to the left are only half of those that will be participating in an actual event - we'll have representatives from PG&E, Cal Water, Fire, County, FEMA and others coming in and out of the Town's Emergency Operations Center dependent upon the local emergency. Each EOC section will have 2-3 people operating within it (some volunteers, some staff). There will need to be display boards, whiteboards, telephones, and computers. Staff will need to be able to talk on the phone, arrange resources, facilitate regional activity, and other communications without disturbing others around the room. "Virtual EOC" operations may be facilitate for some activity - logistics and finance, but for the operations, logistics, and planning - being in the same room and attacking the issues simultaneously is extremely beneficial. 

The purpose of the scenario today was to provide structured training and assessment of the participant's knowledge, experience, and decision-making abilities under pressure. The exercise was not designed to overwhelm, rather, the exercise was designed as a learning experience. It was an expectation that following the exercise, staff would walk through an after action report and identify areas of improvement. In the room (the Emergency Operations Center (EOC)) were staff from all Town departments, members of the City Council, representatives from Ham Radio Operators, Fire and Water as well as the Press. The EOC's role is to facilitate and support field operations in response to the emergency. Various sections of the EOC are activated in response - Planning, Operations (Law, Fire, Public Works), Finance, Logistics, and Management.

The exercise provided an opportunity to share perspectives, learn to work together as a team, and respond to various "incidents" as part of the scenario. We tested our operational coordination, our planning, and our leadership. Along the way, various exercise injects were responded to by the group. These included:
  •  9-1-1 at capacity - calls rolling over to the County
  • El Camino Real has buckled and passage blocked
  • A home under construction has collapsed - workers lost/missing.
  • Water main breaks
  • Trees fallen across roadways
  • Fires
  • Limited personnel - exhausted resources
  • Extended Operational Periods (12-16 hours shifts)
  • Outside agency calls for assistance 
  • and more
Staff walked through as a team what the responses would be; how they related to each other; when we would call for outside resources; how we would do so; what if we didn't receive them; how would we handled extended shifts; and how each incident would be handled. Following the exercise, staff and the evaluation team walked through lessons learned and how things could be improved. 

So....did you feel it? We did. And we're ready to respond. Are you?

If you would like more information on emergency preparedness, local response, points of contact, training, or would like to have someone from the Police Department or the Atherton Disaster and Preparedness Team (ADAPT - to help you setup neighborhood preparedness) let us know. Stay tuned as well as the Town is working with ADAPT to facilitate a Town-wide Workshop designed to assist you in getting prepared. 


George Rodericks
City Manager