By Robin GOLDSWORTHY
Civic leaders gathered in the Rosemont Middle School cafeteria on Saturday to discuss the heat – specifically a fictional heat wave that reached 110 degrees for multiple days. The scenario was one presented by the Rand Corporation as part of a tabletop exercise to explore how prepared the foothills community is if such a case became a reality.
CV Ready, a local coalition dedicated to disaster survival and timely recovery, hosted the exercise.
“This event was the beginning of relationship building events we have planned for the future in order to improve our resilience as a community,” said CV Ready president Roger Young.
About 30 citizens representing a variety of organizations participated in the exercise including CVTC president Robbyn Battles, Robin Sauls and Steve Lauterback of CERT and former CV DOGS founder Cheryl Davis who represented the animal sector.
“[The exercise] was a great start because it made you think,” said Davis. “You could see everyone brainstorming.”
The exercise began with Rand representative Anita Chandra introducing the scenario: a summer heat wave has struck that initially raised temperatures by about five degrees. As days progressed, temperatures rose to 110 degrees for multiple days creating unexpected power outages.
The exercise participants were tasked with identifying how their organization would respond and assist in such a situation. The discussion identified the strengths of each organization represented while also spotlighting overall weaknesses, primarily communication gaps.
“Each organization may have [their] things well-organized,” said CV Ready rep Don Ross, “but not [the group] as a whole.”
Bill Flanders, pastor of First Baptist Church-La Crescenta, represented the faith-based sector.
“The faith community has a lot of resources,” he said, “but coordination may be minimal.”
Reaching segments of the community not represented at the CV Ready exercise – primarily the Korean and Armenian populations – was a concern voiced by attendee Mike Claessens and shared by the rest of the participants. It was also noted that smaller, organized groups like Neighborhood Watch would be especially useful in identifying the elderly who might need help in the wake of a disaster.
Previous disasters that the foothills communities have experienced may have actually helped prepare the community for future disasters, said CV Chamber of Commerce president Steve Pierce.
“The Station Fire and subsequent floods helped us identify our strengths,” said Pierce.
At the end of the exercise, Chandra had the group rate itself on a variety of subjects including engagement, education and partnership. While gaps in services were apparent, the group rated itself as average or above on many of the subjects.
Participants left the three-hour exercise with a better understanding of what their organization can do to help in an emergency while complementing the efforts of other groups.
And though plans may not be seamless, resources are in place, which reassured most.
“[Public Health] feels fortunate to have you all as partners,” said Aizita Magaña of the Los Angeles County Public Health Dept.
Reflecting on the exercise, Young thought it was three hours well spent.
“[I was pleased] that with little information [beforehand] about the exercise and it’s intended outcome that so many community sectors chose to participate based on their commitment to improve our community,” he said. “[CV Ready] wants to assist groups and organizations in building a coalition of entities with like-minded purpose. We want to encourage families and energize neighborhoods to coalesce and build relationships that will come to play in good times and bad.”