When the North Coast is affected by a natural disaster, experience has shown that recovery is far more complex than just getting through the event so everything can go back to normal.
While it’s comforting to believe that the area’s residents, homes, workplaces, schools and real lives will be fine and life will resume right where everybody left off, that’s usually not the case, as can be attested by Cambrians who were affected by strong previous El Niño storms and the 1995 flood in West Village.
The need to know what happens after an emergency or crisis, and how to make that go more smoothly, was the foundation for a recent Federal Emergency Management Agency course, “Recovery from Disaster: The Local Government Role,” taught at the Emergency Management Institute in Emmitsburg, Md.
Three volunteers from Cambria took that training that began Nov. 30, right in the middle of the busy holiday season. After they came home, they said they’d learned a lot that can be applied on the North Coast.
They were Dave Wierenga and Craig Ufferheide, leaders of the Cambria Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), sponsored by CCSD, and Bruce Fosdike, chair of the North Coast Advisory Council. All of them also participate in the Cambria Fire Safe Focus Group.
During those four days of intensive training in Maryland, the three Cambrians worked alongside 18 other emergency managers, volunteers and local officials representing states from Florida and Utah to New Jersey and Arizona.
The course covered pre-disaster planning and post-disaster recovery, with an emphasis on community involvement and a goal of building resiliency into the community.
The “students” reviewed and evaluated a number of disaster plans and recovery efforts that actually had to be executed by the communities.
“We were able to hear from our classmates what other communities were doing and what challenges they were dealing with,” Ufferheide said.
The course provided more than just case studies, Weirenga said. “It equipped us with a large number of references and resources aimed at providing concrete help during the recovery effort.”
Local Hazard Mitigation Plan
The Cambria volunteers said they also took the course to learn more about local hazard mitigation plans (LHMP). A community must have a formal LHMP in order to qualify for post-emergency FEMA funds.
The CCSD has begun preparations for the community’s LHMP, with the assistance of Focus Group members and other agencies.
County supervisors approved Dec. 15 applying for a $352,388 Homeland Security Grant that included $30,000 toward developing Cambria’s LHMP.
Ufferheide, Weirenga and Fosdike say they came away from the course with a larger perspective on what it takes to thoroughly plan for and execute a disaster recovery.
“If I had to say what was the main take-away from this course, it is that the disaster only takes a relatively short period of time, but the recovery can take many months or even years,” Ufferheide said.
“In that timeframe,” Weirenga said, “a lot can be done to heal the community and mitigate future occurrences of the disaster events. How well that works is very dependent on how much preplanning is done and the extent to which the community participates in the planning and the recovery.”
Fosdike, who attended an additional emergency-based class Dec. 8 in San Diego, said he’d learned that “preplanning is crucial throughout the whole community, because plans are all community based.” That preplanning includes “being able to identify stakeholders and preplan with them for an event or disaster.”
He said, for instance, that “stakeholders can include people who have generators to keep things cold, restaurants that have food stocks, and community organizations who need to know how they can prepare beforehand and identify what role they want to play, rather than react afterwards.”
If you go
▪ The next basic training course for CERT will begin Jan. 11 at the Cambria Fire Station, 2850 Burton Drive. The class continues on Jan. 13, 18, 20 and 26. Registration is required; a $35 fee for new CERT members covers a student manual and first-aid supplies. For details, email Ufferheide@charter.net.
▪ The next CERT meeting is to feature a presentation by the Sheriff’s Office on their involvement in a North Coast emergency situation. That meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 18 at Community Presbyterian Church, 2250 Yorkshire Drive.
▪ The North Coast Advisory Council’s next meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20, at Rabobank, 1070 Main St.
▪ The next meeting of the Cambria Fire Safe Focus Group will be at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13, at the fire station.
The meetings are open to the public.