Council increases Disaster Committee to eight

A disaster is not an "if" in Laguna but a "when," city officials said, and they want to be prepared.

Gary Beverage, Sandi Cain, David Horne, Sue Kempf, John C. Kountz, Matt Lawson, Richard Picheny and David Sanford were appointed at the June 21 City Council meeting to a new committee to monitor and prepare for future emergencies and disasters.

"The timing is right. We need to do this now, before the next disaster," said Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson, who proposed the committee and will served as council liaison. "We have an emergency plan, but this will take it to the next level."

The council bumped the committee up from the proposed seven members to eight to take advantage of the skills and acumen of all the applicants. For the first time, Emerald Bay residents could apply, which is where Horne came in.

Horne, who lived in Laguna until his house burned down in 1993, is the founding chairman of the Greater Laguna Coast Fire Safe Council and treasurer of the California Fire Safe Council.

"I want to contribute towards making our community better able to survive a disaster," he wrote in his application.

Kountz wrote the city's emergency plan for Amateur Radio Communications and conducts two weekly radio drills for local and statewide amateur operators, called hams, using only emergency power.

Affiliated with radio and electronics for more than 65 years, he focuses on the design and construction of rugged portable electronic systems that are solar/battery powered.

He said more functional and formal lines of communication must be forged between the hams and the city's public safety agencies.

Lawson applauded the council for taking pro-active steps to protect the city.

"Recent flooding and the council's Preparedness Workshop have underscored the importance of the city's disaster prevention, mitigation and recovery efforts," Lawson said.

Lawson and his wife live in Diamond Crestview, which he said the Laguna Beach General Plan identifies as an at-risk neighborhood.

"It's tough to get people to think about patching the roof when the sun is shining, but creating this advisory committee is an important step in that direction," he said.

Lawson said his business experience will be an asset to the committee.

"I have also learned that we have an incredible reservoir of talented residents in Laguna," Lawson said. "Working together, all of us are smarter than any of us.

"In addition to developing its own expertise, the committee has a tremendous opportunity to gather input from everyone with something to contribute."

The committee will provide a forum for residents, businesses and service provides on how to prepare for a disaster. It will also research grants and other funds, help neighbors organize, and maintain a list of assistance groups and individuals, among other duties.

The committee members will decide among themselves who will serve an initial two-year term and who will serve for one year, so that the next appointment will be staggered. The Police Department will provide staff liaison.

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