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Area Officials Review Federal Disaster Plan

Should a natural disaster ever paralyze Ventura County--knocking out roads, electricity and water supplies--local officials can call on the federal government to swoop in and provide essential services.

But if they ask for that assistance, county leaders must be prepared to relinquish a great deal of their authority.

That was the message delivered Thursday to about 50 city and county employees representing departments ranging from the district attorney’s office to public works departments.

“You abrogate some power, but the resources you get are tremendous,” said Lee J. Sapaden, a manager with the state Department of Social Services, who led the morning-long workshop on the Federal Response Plan.

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“You, as local officials, are going to feel overwhelmed by all these federal folks who are going to be in your county,” he said.

Sapaden said the response plan has been activated just four times since it was written in 1988. It was used to help victims of Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Iniki, the Midwest floods and the Northridge earthquake.

The plan is separate from the financial relief offered to local governments through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Under the plan, states, cities and counties can request federal help in 12 areas ranging from transportation to mass shelter and hazardous material cleanup.

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The federal government can also supply fuel for emergency generators, an instant communications system and thousands of ready-made meals stockpiled after the Persian Gulf War.

“It’s a large-scale group of folks that get called in,” Sapaden said.


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