Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

November 30, 2005


Host: Michael Grant

Disaster: A HORIZON Special


  • Donít miss this special half-hour devoted to disaster preparedness. How will the government and the public respond in the event of a catastrophic emergency in Arizona?
Guests:
  • Phil Gordon - Mayor of Phoenix


View Transcript
>> Michael Grant:
Tonight on "Horizon," what type of disaster either natural or main made could happen in Arizona?

>> Michael Grant:
How do government agencies communicate and coordinate with each other in the event of an emergency? And what would the public be instructed to do? And what can individuals do to prepare themselves to respond? Is Arizona prepared for disaster? Next on "Horizon."

>> Michael Grant:
Good evening, I'm Michael Grant.

>> Michael Grant:
Tonight we bring you a "Horizon" special on how the government, the public and individuals can respond in the event of a catastrophic emergency. Governor Janet Napolitano says states should lead the response to natural disasters, in the wake of catastrophic disasters in the Gulf States, many authorities taking a second look at their state's preparedness. One way to do that is by having mock disaster exercises. Tonight we begin with a look at disaster scenarios we possibly could have in Arizona. Larry Lemmons reports.

>> Police Officer:
We need help. Also we have an armed suspect in the van.

>> Larry Lemmons:
A stolen van is spotted by the Department of Public Safety. A chase results in a collision with a taker carrying ammonia.

>> Police Officer:
We have additional resources coming.

>> Larry Lemmons:
Inmates happen to be working in the area.

>> Larry Lemmons:
Several people are overcome by toxic fumes. This is a disaster on a simulated Casa Grande intersection. A mock exercise is conducted by local, county, state, and federal emergency responders. Just as authorities reign in the chaos, another glitch.

>> Frank Navarette:
We just received word shortly of another -- some other casualties. One of the suspects had escaped and he was captured moments ago by three police officers. After he was apprehended and being searched, he had a backpack and unfortunately the backpack explode and all four were killed, including the officers.

>> Radio Dispatch:
Oh, dear. Ok.

>> Larry Lemmons:
Frank is the director of the Arizona office of homeland security, Arizona division of emergency management. He's on the phone with governor Janet Napolitano describing the situation.

>> Radio Dispatch:
What about medical personnel?

>> Frank Navarette:
Medical personnel were in good shape.

>> Larry Lemmons:
Exercises like these ensure that first responders know what to do in an emergency.

>> Cam Hunter:
We work at it, people may not see it, but we work at it on a daily basis, and it's through training, it's through exercises when responders aren't responding, you can be sure in the emergency planners, they're in preparing for this sort of thing.

>> Larry Lemmons:
Preparing for this sort of thing in New Orleans was apparently difficult for emergency management. As the crisis lingered like stagnant water, criticism of the federal emergency management agency grew.

>> Frank Navarette:
It's emotional because of what happened, and the criticism they received, and the fact mike brown was asked to step down, there's also a lot of concern or discussion about the fact that some of the funding has been cut back for FEMA. Also the fact that more emphasis has been placed on terrorism as opposed to natural disasters when you have more natural disasters than you do terrorism, so it's an open issue. And like I said, it's going to be up for a lot of debate.

>> Larry Lemmons:
Locally authorities say the lessons of recent disasters have not been lost on them. The lack of local communication after the hurricane was instructive.

>> Frank Navarette:
We've taken several significant steps. One in particular is interoperability. The ability for disparate it radio frequencies to communicate with each other. We've put equipment in place that will allow us to do that during emergencies. It's not a constant thing you can do because that would take hundreds of millions of dollars and quite a bit of time. For example, vehicles like this are good example of the capability. With this vehicle we can tie in all of these first responders and they can talk to one another over their existing radio frequencies.

>> Larry Lemmons:
While authorities prepare for any disaster, in Arizona, disaster could occur that generally wouldn't threaten cooler or wetter areas.

>> Frank Navarette:
One is a massive Valley wide electrical power failure that would last for months in the summer. That has a ripple effect. It impacts commerce, human safety, it -- can you imagine that, people in trailers without air conditioning, the elderly people, what do you do with people that need special care and nursing homes? That's a big deal. Of course we always deal with floods in Arizona, and the third one is wildfires. But we also look very carefully and very keenly at potential terrorist activities.

>> David Engelthaler:
So it's really because we've been planning for all hazards, which helps us make sure we are ready for anything. Within that we look specifically obviously at things like Palo Verde and planning around that, we look at infectious disease outbreaks, Pandemic Influenza is being discussed a lot lately, other types of large-scale infectious disease outbreaks, ones we don't know about but things we can be prepared for, SARS, for example. Other things like bio-terrorism attacks, other types of terrorism attacks which may have impact on health, lots of death, illness, that's what we are doing a lot of planning for. 5

>> Larry Lemmons:
Whether natural or caused by human hands, disasters can strike with little warning, but exercises like these help responders to expect the unexpected and to react skillfully in the midst of chaos.

>> Michael Grant:
When hurricane Katrina struck the gulf coast, communication was limited at best. That fact of course made the coordination of various emergency responders quite difficult. Next up, a look at city, state, and county agency communications systems, and a discussion about how various government agencies must come together in an emergency.

>> Larry Lemmons:
A survivor dangles over the flooded city of New Orleans in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Authorities are caught off guard by the magnitude of the disaster.

>> Gov. Kathleen Blanco:
We are in the planning process right now of attempting to locate appropriate places to try to evacuate those folks who stayed in the city. We -- the plans are not firm yet, we're working with FEMA. We are grateful that FEMA is by our side. The magnitude of the situation is untenable. It's just heartbreaking.

>> Larry Lemmons:
In the days to come the world would discover there were lapses in the coordination between various levels of emergency responders.

>> David Engelthaler:
It makes you rethink a couple things. It makes you rethink how quickly can the federal government come in and respond? It saddens me as somebody who's been involved in emergency planning for many years in the state to see another state really have so many problems and fail in so many areas, and at the local level, the state level, the federal level. We've also seen many other disasters where that hasn't hand. Lots of other hurricane-type disasters. We've seen disasters on the west coast in other places where the federal government works within a system and it all comes together. Unfortunately Katrina was just a real poster child for when everything falls apart. That's the exception and not the rule.

>> Firefighter:
We've got some on the ground we need personnel getting them out.

>> Dispatch:
Copy.

>> David Engelthaler:
Here in the valley, we know that fire talks to police, we know emergency management talks with public health. We know the city talks with the county and the county talks with the state. Those things don't happen in a lot of other places. So we do have that luxury of coordination here in Arizona.

>> Larry Lemmons:
A mock disaster exercise, an opportunity for various local, state, and federal authorities to ensure communication and disciplined response from all entities.

>> Frank Navarette:
First person in charge is a local first responder. That's where it starts. And as it proceeds up the line you establish an instant command center. Once you do that, that is -- stays in place. And that's important. And it's part of the national response plan, and we follow those guidelines, and that's how you do it.

>> Larry Lemmons:
Various scenarios require different response, but there are constants through any disaster. Communication is a vital importance in any situation.

>> Cam Hunter:
Interoperability is a huge thing, as I'm sure the public understands watching some of the recent disasters and emergencies that occurred. When you have multi-agency response, typically before police couldn't talk to other police, or fire, or the medical response community. We now have, with federal homeland security purchased five communications vans that allow -- afford us that ability. A lot of first responders also have spent a lot of time and thought building the ability to be able to talk to each other in a disaster.

>> Frank Navarette:
We take into strict measures on making sure that the first responders throughout the state have the appropriate equipment that they need in order to be effective. We've regionalized the state, we've taken all 15 counties and carved five regions out of the counties so we would have more of a good positive working relationship with all of the various folks within those regions. We have standardized our training throughout the state. We also have standardized the type of equipment they buy so when you have people coming from phoenix to, for example, to the county, they've got the fire people using the same equipment as the local people, so we've taken a lot of these measures that just help make this whole thing a little bit more positive in terms of how we respond to these.

>> Larry Lemmons:
Despite the destruction and confusion brought by hurricane Katrina, the experience of respond nurse that disaster has contributed greatly to the continuing education of responders in Arizona. It has proven to be a lesson in the importance of coordination between all entities involved.

>> Michael Grant:
Joining us now in studio to tell us how various agencies work together, the mayor of Phoenix, Phil Gordon, Judy, spokesperson for the Arizona Division of Emergency Management, and Chief Larry Black, Chief of Enforcement nor the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department. To quote I think it was Al Haig more than two decades ago, "I'm in charge here," when something like this happens, who is initially in charge?

>> Judy Kioski:
It is a local responder, the first responders that come on scene. And they take control of the situation. They establish what's called incident command. As they get overwhelmed, if they need more -- to bring more resources to bear, then they're going to call on other agencies. They can call on the county, and eventually call on the state. But what we always say is disaster is -- disasters are local. The first respond there's are used to expanding in the community and know how to take care of that and set up that incident command. When the state gets involved, we open up the emergency operation center, which is just another level of command and control, but those first responders are just so key.

>> Michael Grant:
Larry, when the first responders get on there and they say, hold it, we're overwhelmed, is it a combination of responding for lack of -- or requesting a horizontally for lack of a better term? For example, Phoenix calling on Tempe, or Phoenix calling on Glendale, or do they go in all directions, including maybe vertically going up to the County Sheriff going out to affiliated police departments or other agencies? How does that work?

>> Chief Larry Black:
If we have a major disaster, obviously the agencies all get along well together, and they'll put together a response team for whatever is necessary. Sometimes there's specific things, if it's a water-related thing, they'll use resources, they may go to the county operations center to say, what resources are local, and do we have to go to the state, and we may get a piece from Tempe, we may get a piece from the sheriff's office, and highway patrol, depending on what it is to tackle that. So there's that level all the way across. And I think everybody seems to get along real well and works together with the same idea. That was -- there was not that confusion. There was a lot of confusion early on in Louisiana.

>> Phil Gordon:
If I can add, first of all you heard interoperatability. In the valley Phoenix was the lead, but we have other agencies built on 800 megahertz, so we can talk through buildings as well. You also have in the case --

>> Michael Grant:
The significant lesson of 9-11, and obviously community difficulties were --

>> Phil Gordon:
We have that. We also have, particularly in the case of fire, when you need a fire truck, whether it's localized, medical emergency, or disaster God forbid, you'll get the closest truck or trucks because they're all dispatched out of the same area. So it's all one dispatch. So all the departments have worked together, trained together and are being dispatched. Police and national guard units, as the need is there, everybody knows who to call and when to call, and in fact it isn't my territory, your territory, it's -- these are brothers and sisters that have worked together and have trained together. And I can't emphasize again the professional command element that this state has versus other areas of the country where when a mayor changes, then the new police chief comes in, and has to learn the system, and the new commanders come in, it's not a political system, it's a professional system that stays. 11

>> Michael Grant:
When do the feds I guess FEMA, lock into this process? Obviously there has to be a presidential declaration.

>> Judy Kioski:
Certainly. But even before that we're already informing them, just like when a disaster is developing, and we -- the state gets informed early on, we might stand up at the emergency operations center with a small team to monitor a situation. So when state assistance is requested, we're already up to speed and we know what needs to be done. And just like that, we're going to keep our federal partners informed about what's occurring, so when the need comes, they're already up to speed and they know what our needs are.

>> Michael Grant:
Larry, does the interoperatability extend to federal counterparts as well as local and other --

>> Chief Larry Black:
Yes, the new communications center, they'll marry up together so they're basically using one channel. What we saw in Louisiana, their whole system was gone, so they didn't have even the initial one to start with. That was one thing I don't think they anticipated. They didn't have -- they had one channel that actually remained in operation in New Orleans for the whole city to operate on. And it's amazing how much you realize all of a sudden how much they depend on cell phones. None of that worked, so that's -- so you have to have those initial infrastructures, and they didn't have that planned ahead. It all got flooded. Their whole warehouse was flooded, the stuff the city was going to survive on, because of the levees, it was gone.

>> Michael Grant:
It is easy I guess to overemphasize New Orleans and Katrina, but that was a disaster of a scale, particularly where New Orleans was concerned, that is difficult to contemplate.

>> Phil Gordon:
It's difficult to imagine on one hand, but it's a fool's game, and especially after 9-11, not to imagine. And that's where I think the new chapters of the plan that's been referred to continues to be added, that assume the worst and the worst that we're assuming unfortunately in the world today, we've seen may not be the worst. Particularly terrorist issues. You could have catastrophes in southern California or in Arizona that will require a lot of creativity.

>> Michael Grant:
In fact you're going to go over and meet with the Los Angeles mayor next month on generally on the subject for what purpose?

>> Phil Gordon:
Well, I'll tell you. I went to New Orleans to pick up our first team of 84 police officers and firefighters, and was flying in a jet for what seemed almost like an eternity, landing -- it became so obvious to me the scale of disaster like that, whether it's man made or natural, is just way beyond any local or even our valley's ability to handle after a while. And I was thinking, given our proximity, the second largest city in the United States, we're the fifth largest. Working with our state and our county, and our other regions, let's have a mutual aid agreement or for evacuation and for mutual aid in the event southern California, L.A. gets hit, or we get hit. We're 200 miles away, if you split the difference, we've got a lot of, again, similarities, so the idea that occurred to me, I called up the mayor, he said it's a phenomenal idea, let's get our professionals together and start working on an evacuation, what-if plan.

>> Michael Grant:
There are a series of mutual aid --

>> Judy Kioski:
Exactly. There's actually mutual aid agreement between states, and that's what allowed those County Sheriff's office to go over and do that. It was through this e-M.A.C. agreement, so we can work with states. Certainly the New Orleans, Mississippi, that was so overwhelming, and we really needed to call in other states, and they did, and they called on us, just like we used that mutual aid agreement to get some resources here during the flooding that we experienced in the state in the early part of the year. So we are using it, and we're helping with it.

>> Michael Grant:
Judy, thank you very much for joining us. Chief Larry Black, thanks to you as well. Mayor Phil Gordon, thanks. Best of luck with that pesky FEMA thing. And with those communication systems in place, what would various government agencies instruct the public to do in a catastrophic emergency event? Merry Lucero looks at some of the information that will go out on public alert systems following a major disaster.

>> Merry Lucero:
Emergency response staff at federal, state, county, and local levels, train in mock disasters such as this.

>> Frank Navarette:
The only way you're going to find out how well you're prepared is actually exercise and test these people with -- that's why we have these injects they don't know anything about, to create as much realism as possible without jeopardizing the public safety. I think it's credible.

>> Merry Lucero:
Identification of bioterrorism agents such as anthrax, are also included in hospital awareness training in the event of a public health outbreak, state health services hustle to find and isolate the source.

>> David Engelthaler:
A good example, we had a measles case that came in from a foreign country, and was actually came in to Arizona through the airport, ended up exposing people in various areas of the state, and we had to do trace back across the state to identify anybody who may have been exposed, make sure they have vaccinated, building a wall around the disease.

>> Merry Lucero:
D.H.S. is watching for any unusual disease occurrences or people showing up with unexplained illnesses in various community hospitals. It is possible that the public would be instructed to stay home either to avoid becoming infected, or to protect others.

>> David Engelthaler:
Quarantine is definitely one of those old-time public health measures, back before the advent of antibiotics and vaccines. That's really how it was -- what was used to prevent disease spread. Turns out we had to go back and look at quarantine for dealing with things like bioterrorism planning. For those diseases which we may not have good treatments for. So look at the public health measures that help prevent the spread and quarantine is one of those.

>> Merry Lucero:
Another basic emergency response scenario, evacuation. That circumstance has largely been viewed as a regional issue with the low probability in Arizona, still, transportation planning and management is key for the mass movement of a threatened population.

>> Frank Navarette:
We've got a pretty robust plan for the state of Arizona. As a result of that, we're now reevaluating our evacuation plans. That -- not only evacuation outside, but intake of refugees.

>> Merry Lucero:
Freeway travel or the reversal of one or more lanes and/or shoulders in the inbound direction for use by outbound traffic would be used to move people out of an urban area. But the number of people on the road at one time would need to be controlled in an emergency. Some disaster scenarios may call for people to go to an emergency shelter or stay indoors where they are if a catastrophic event occurs.

>> David Engelthaler:
In the -- the public play as very large role in disaster response. It's up to them to make sure they are prepared, that they can take care of themselves, their families, possibly their neighbors. Whether or not they get shut in their homes.

>> Merry Lucero:
Every emergency situation is different. So whether you have to evacuate or stay put, it is important to follow the instructions of local emergency coordinators, because these agencies plan disaster responses so communities can eventually return to normal.

>> Michael Grant:
Finally tonight, how can you personally be prepared for disaster? After hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, help was slow to come. For those who were still there being personally prepared could have saved lives. Just how should you get ready for the unexpected? In our final segment, Mike Sauceda tells us about emergency kits sold by the Red Cross.

>> Mike Sauceda:
One lesson that was obvious from hurricane Katrina, the cavalry is not going to ride in immediately to save you.

>> Carol Gibbs:
I think we all need to take our responsibility for our own safety, and the Red Cross actually came up with five actions for emergency preparedness. We felt if we kept it really simple, make a plan, built a kit, get trained, volunteer, and give blood, the easier you kept it, the more people that would follow it. We actually did a survey, and of the survey, only about a fifth of the people surveyed were prepared for an emergency. So not a lot of people really think as you say, that it's their responsibility. 17

>> Mike Sauceda:
All those points are covered in the Red Cross's five-point personal preparedness plan. Have a plan, build a kit, get trained.

>> Mike Sauceda:
Volunteer, and give blood. Carol is a safety solution specialist for the grabbed canyon chapter of the American Red Cross. She explains what it means to have a plan.

>> Carol Gibbs:
Having a plan, whether if you're at home or a business, you identify the emergencies that can happen, you rate the problem bills, here in Arizona I think we've gotten a little lazy, because we don't -- we haven't had hurricanes, we haven't had a tsunami, however, if you look back over our history of our state, every natural disaster except the tsunami has actually happened over our state's history.

>> Mike Sauceda:
Most people think of having supplies when it comes to being prepared. The Red Cross sells several preparedness kits starting with the basic C.P.R. kit, after that a starter survival kit which gives one person a one-day supply of food and water, starts at $20.

>> Carol Gibbs:
This kit has in it some things that you will need in an emergency. This is a good kit for the back of your car, just to have in your laundry room, your garage, at your desk at work. A light stick, a small flashlight, batteries are inside, as well as a fruit bar. And there are actually -- there's another foot for one day in this particular little pack. We also have just a small supply of first aid supplies. And then a rescue blanket. And these are important for not only to keep you warm, but also if a victim goes into shock. There's also some gloves for universal precautions, as well as a dust mask. We also have water packets, and they're ready to use, you just open it up, two bags per person per day is what's recommended.

>> Mike Sauceda:
You can get a better kit for more people or to last longer for one person, but they all build on the basic kit. The next kit up the line is $35 and will keep one person in supplies for three days.

>> Carol Gibbs:
Next kit up is a little larger, it's still a one-person, three-day kit. This kit has a little more room so we have a few room for personal items that you may need along with your medication, and along with -- it also has your food, rations for three days, one person, three days. As well as your batteries for your flashlight, a little larger so you have a little longer lasting flashlight in this kit. Your emergency blanket is in here as well.

>> Mike Sauceda:
A lot of the same things.

>> Carol Gibbs:
A lot of the same things. A little larger first aid kit and supplies. Some gloves, and some duct tape is in here, along with a whistle, flashlight, light stick. So you have many of the same items that we've compared, but it's a few more. Some larger sizes.

>> Mike Sauceda:
There's a family kit for just under $70.

>> Carol Gibbs:
You'll add a few other additional items to the larger bag. Maybe a larger first aid kit, along with a tarp, you can have of course here's your duct tape, you can have your personal items, maybe some washcloths, your pills, any medication that you take. You may also have some extra clothing, maybe an extra sweat suit or something. So the idea is to start in building your kit, getting the items together that are required, or that you think you may need, and then have them all in one place.

>> Mike Sauceda:
The Red Cross sells other larger kits and all are available online at www . Arizonaredcross.org.

>> Michael Grant:
Thank you very much for joining us for this special edition of "Horizon." I'm Michael Grant. Have a great one. Good night.


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