From the Helena Independent Record:
As the country watches the Gulf Coast recover from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, are we ready for our own disaster?
Planners: We’re ready Disaster and emergency officials certainly hope so.
“When I started my job 25 years ago, I would have said, ‘No, we probably aren’t,’ ” says Paul Spengler, Lewis and Clark County disaster and emergency services coordinator. He’s responsible for beating the drum of earthquake preparedness. “(But) we have raised a couple generations of schoolkids…(on) how to take protective cover in an earthquake,” he says. “People are far more aware of the earthquake hazard.” Many have criticized the response to Hurricane Katrina and what emergency personnel did and didn’t do. Depending on the size and scope, here’s how local officials hope a local disaster would play out:
The Emergency Operations Center — a plain basement next to the County Courthouse — would become a hive of activity, with elected officials, department heads and others figuring out what’s left standing. Hospitals, nursing homes, and the Law Enforcement Center would be top priorities.
Once they dig out and check on their own families, up to 50 police officers would patrol streets, secure sites, look for looters and direct traffic.
The city’s 36 firefighters would likely be tied up fighting one large building fire, or searching for victims. The first 48 hours after a disaster are the “golden hours” to find trapped victims.
The area’s four ambulances would quickly become overwhelmed. As in most big disasters, victims would stagger to the emergency room the best they could.
Dams fail incrementally, so evacuation warnings could be broadcast for Missouri River-side dwellers. Sheriff’s deputies would race downstream and warn people to head for higher ground. A siren would sound in Wolf Creek. Great Falls residents would have 10 hours to clear out.
The Red Cross would establish emergency shelters.
The City Public Works Department would assess damage to buildings and services, with the help of a dozen local architects.
Assuming all sent well, work crews would soon clear streets, restore water, sewer, gas and power in a matter of days.
237,000 tons of debris would need to be hauled away.
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