City to update its emergency plans

Atascadero officials are re-evaluating the city’s emergency plan after detecting several small weak points during a weeklong emergency training seminar.

City leaders and several dozen of their peers from throughout the county attended the state-of-the-art emergency management-training seminar in Maryland funded by a $300,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

A simulated catastrophic storm, based on a 1969 flood that caused significant damage in Atascadero, was used to test the skills of more than 60 local emergency responders and community stakeholders.

“In our small community we rely and depend on each other,” Fire Chief Kurt Stone said. “In the face of a catastrophic event – we are all in it together.”

Participants used the city’s emergency plan to test its strength in the event of widespread flooding, breach of the city’s wastewater treatment plan, collapse of local buildings and citywide power failure.

Stone said the city’s emergency plan underwent painstaking revisions after the San Simeon Earthquake in 2003 but changes are still needed.

“We noticed some weaknesses in our current plan but that is what we wanted to gain from this training – we wanted to find the flaws,” Stone said. “The training validated that we do well at what we do every day — it is the things that you don’t have to rely on very often that need refreshed.”

One likely addition to the city’s emergency plan will be a policy on how to handle an influx of food and other donations during emergency situations. A discussion about sectioning the city, which is 26 square miles, into grids for easier response is also likely, Stone said.

Stone and other city leaders plan to gather in January to discuss what changes need to be made.

“We are in a good place right now but it is never good enough,” Stone said. “Our emergency plan is a living document that we can always continue to develop and improve.”

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939.