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More Training Urged : Disaster Needs in Long Beach Get Close Look

November 26, 1987|ROXANA KOPETMAN | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — Better communication and more training are needed to improve coordination between departments during disasters, according to a Fire Department audit of the Oct. 1 Whittier earthquake.

Overall, city departments acted "effectively with the resources available and could handle emergencies of greater magnitude," Fire Chief James B. Souders wrote in his report.

But several areas need to be improved, he said. Specifically, the audit presented to the City Council's Public Safety Committee on Tuesday states that Long Beach needs:

A mobile center with greater communication capabilities than the police mobile center now available.

A radio channel designated for use in disasters.

More radios, telephones and Teletype computer systems for communication among departments, city agencies and others.

Better methods of communicating information and instructions to citizens before, during and after a disaster because most people would not be "prepared to take care of themselves" after a major disaster.

More use of volunteer workers and organizations, which need to be integrated into the city emergency plan and trained with city staff.

More Training Begun

The Fire Department already has started additional training and is checking into other recommendations, with an emphasis on communication, Deputy Chief Robert W. Guyett said.

Under the direction of City Manager James Hankla, "the entire city is using that event (the Whittier earthquake) as a focus to increase awareness and training to handle emergencies," Guyett said.

After the earthquake, which caused $70 million damage in Whittier but left this city mostly unscathed, Long Beach officials have taken several steps, which include:

A review and updating of the 1982 City Emergency Plan, which the Fire Department expects to complete by next July.

Incorporation of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service group, which has about 270 members locally, to increase amateur radio frequency capability and provide volunteers to operate the equipment.

Development of a 10-minute videotape to instruct people on what to do after an earthquake. The tape, which would be shown locally after a quake, also would be available to neighborhood groups interested in earthquake preparation.

The city manager has recommended forming an Emergency Advisory Council. Long Beach had such a group once, but "it just died out of neglect," Guyett said.

Hankla also has called for at least two disaster exercises each year. An exercise for city staff is scheduled for next week, according to Souders' report.

In a related issue, the council's Public Safety Committee forwarded to the full council a recommendation to contract with a structural engineer for a review of building reinforcement techniques.

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