My Turn: Emergency preparedness efforts underway for Juneau

Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2001

The recent terrorist attacks on the United States have caused many people to ask how prepared are we to handle major disasters and emergencies. From government to the individual citizen, we all have a responsibility to be prepared when disaster strikes.

Emergency preparedness and mitigation are important tasks for the Capital City, so the City and Borough of Juneau has been working steadily, particularly over the past few years, to improve our readiness to respond to major disasters. Recognizing that it would take a long time to achieve optimal readiness without someone dedicated to making it happen, the Assembly last spring created a new, half-time staff position for emergency management. Here are a few of the efforts currently underway.

The Capital City Emergency Planning Committee is updating Juneau's Emergency Operations Plan (EOP). While we have had an EOP in place for some time, it, like any plan, has become out-of-date. The committee will produce a complete update and rewrite of our EOP. The plan will use the well established incident command system to merge varying disciplines, organizations and agencies, which might not be accustomed to working together, into a coordinated incident management team.

CBJ's primary Emergency Operations Center is housed in the new headquarters of the Juneau Police Department. The center exists to coordinate response forces for saving lives and to minimize suffering and property loss. It offers an expandable space of 600 to 1,500 square feet and includes communications equipment so that the EOC can effectively do its job. JPD and the CBJ's emergency management coordinator are continuing work to fully equip the EOC.

In addition to the efforts of the Capital City Emergency Planning Committee and the CBJ to improve professional disaster assistance, opportunities exist for each of us to improve our own ability to respond to disaster emergencies. This fall, a certified community emergency response team (CERT) trainer will offer a seven-class CERT course in Juneau. The CERT training, endorsed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is designed to prepare you, your family and your neighbors in the event of a catastrophic disaster. Be watching for announcements of the time and place for this training.

While Juneau is at low risk of ever facing an emergency of the proportions seen two weeks ago in New York and Virginia, we all still need to be prepared for the unexpected. Working together, as individuals and as neighbors, in service groups and as a community, we can ensure that Juneau will be able to mitigate, respond to and recover from large scale emergencies with as little suffering as humanly possible.

Sally Smith is mayor of the City and Borough of Juneau.

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