NEWPORT BEACH : Expanded Disaster Plan in the Works

Newport Beach is considering an expanded disaster plan that could add up to three new employees to the payroll, city officials say.

The proposal, which is a supplement to the city's current disaster plan, is being revised as it makes its way through each city department but should solidify by the time budget hearings begin April 9, executive assistant Ken Delino said. By July 1, an updated Emergency Operations Plan should be in place, he said.

Last month, a residents' advisory panel gave recommendations on how to prepare Newport Beach residents and government for a regional disaster, such as an earthquake or major flood.

While the report calls Newport Beach "excellently prepared" to deal with local emergencies, it says the city should improve plans for areawide catastrophes.

"If we have a singular disaster, we know we can count on aid from Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach and the rest of Orange County, for that matter," Fire Capt. Ray Pendleton said. "On the other hand, if we have a situation that's an areawide disaster, then the boundaries between communities all of a sudden become walls again. No longer can you expect someone who has problems to assist you with your problems."

The committee suggested that the Parks, Beaches and Recreation Department stockpile food, bedding and first aid for emergency shelters by July. The department should designate the location of potential shelters and employees should learn "shelter management" and advanced first aid, the report recommends.

All departments should have an "emergency coordinator" and enough food and water to supply city employees and volunteers for three days, the report says.

Budget constraints may dictate the level of preparedness, officials say. For example, the first-year cost of adding three city employees, including the recommended full-time emergency services coordinator, and related equipment such as a car and computer, would cost $213,000, Pendleton said.

The committee also suggested that the city take steps to make residents more self-sufficient by organizing neighborhood self-help groups and encouraging communities to develop their own disaster plans.

In the case of a major disaster, Pendleton said, calling 911 is "no longer a viable option."

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