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September 23, 2009 > Emergency Preparedness Commission

Emergency Preparedness Commission

By Dustin Findley

Milpitas Emergency Preparedness Commission (EPC) had a meeting on September 17, 2009.

EPC Chair Russ Cherry said that October 2 - 4 was the 28th annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend.

"Thank a firefighter when you see him" said Cherry.

In Milpitas October is Fire Prevention Month. October 4 - 10 is Fire Prevention Week nationwide.

Sean Simonson, Office of Emergency Services, told the commission that the Milpitas Fire Department plans to hold educational events, with Fire Safe House, at schools, and at Milpitas' Halloween event Spooktacular on October 24.

For those that have Amateur Radio License or desire to get one, Tim Howard, Milpitas Emergency Coordinator for Milpitas ARES/RACES, is looking to recruit current licensed Amateur Hams (Ham radio operators) in the City, and will be having an informational meeting in the community room of the Milpitas Police Department on Thursday, September 24 at 7 p.m.

ARES stands for Amateur Radio Emergency Service and RACES stands for Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service.

More people need to sign up so the Strategic Actions for Emergencies (SAFE), Milpitas' Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program, can hold a class.

Simonson reported that the big SAFE push right now is to encourage SAFE members to get involved with ARES/RACES, becoming licensed Amateur Radio operators.

"The further out we reach to encompassing the community in CERT training, SAFE training, the better off we're going to be in the long run" said Cherry.

For more information and to enroll , call (408) 586-2810 or send an email to or visit

Commissioner Howard reported that the City does have a communications van that has City radios as well as the Amateur Radios in it. Currently, the ARES/RACES members are not allowed to drive that vehicle. The fire department has to move it when ARES/RACES wants to use it for training or public service events, and would like to see the vehicle be used more.

There is a standard operating procedure (SOP) that the City has that delineates how that is to be done, who is qualified, how to train, etc.

SOP 4-32, adopted in 2002, has never been rescinded, includes ARES/RACES members, but it was deemed that they be removed from the list of authorized users.

EPC voted to recommend to City Council that SOP 4-32 be adopted for allowing the ARES/RACES personnel to able to drive the Office of Emergency Services (OES) communications van.

Cherry is seeking input for local nonprofit organization interface with the City in a disaster, targeting Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and Faith Based Organizations (FBOs).

The money that they get has to be used for community serving programs, not for capital improvements and things of that nature, to qualify for CBO or FBO.

Karen Kollander, director of the Milpitas Food Pantry, will make a presentation about what the Food Pantry does, how they do it. The Milpitas Food Pantry has a mandate from Second Harvest Food Bank about how they are to function in a disaster.

This CBO item will be continued.

EPC is working on a SOP for dealing with special populations, to update plans to handle groups of people with special needs, and making that the care and shelter facility is accessible.

Cherry said it was unclear what the County was doing in terms of a plan, and it would seem inefficient for them to put the work into crafting a new plan when one, with every contingency, has already been created by FEMA.

Simonson reported that there is work to encourage volunteer groups to go throughout the community, in all communities, and check to verify that the care and shelter facilities are accessible for people with disabilities, with varying levels of injury, to get around.

"As it stands right now, with our care and shelter facility, it's really accessible" Simonson said.

City and Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) still discussing how to use MUSD facilities for emergency sheltering.

EPC is working on upgrading gas meters to automatic shut off in case of seismic shaking from an earthquake, or excess flow of gas, as decreed by City Ordinance.

In a report to Sunnyvale Mayor and Council for August 11, 2009 it states "It should be noted that in Santa Clara County the City of Milpitas is the only jurisdiction that requires automatic gas shutoff devices."

Cherry brought a Coastal California valve to the August meeting for demonstration purposes, and a picture of the new meter to the September meeting.

Cherry said at one time they were going to distribute wrenches dedicated to valve shut off to every valve resident in the City, only to find out that Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has five sizes of tang (the on/off mechanism on a gas meter). Most of the disaster wrenches did not fit a couple of them.

Cherry met with representatives and attorneys from PG&E, and various other parties including the State Architect, to discuss the possibility of standardizing the tang. Any part of the new meter, from the screws to the paint, is standardized, except for this one thing. Cherry had to let this go,

The gas meter upgrade, with automatic gas valve shut off as decreed by City ordinance, is almost complete.

Look for disaster wrenches and emergency preparedness wrenches at a home supply hardware store.

Every year there is a emergency drill at an elementary coordinated by the City and the school district. They are currently. in the planning stages.

Commissioner Strauss reported that the initial idea was to test the release system for the school, the mechanism that releases children to their parent or guardian after the school drill.

Keeping that in mind, the idea was to possibly start the drill a little later in the day, in the afternoon prior to the end of school.

Commissioner Shreve said that he spoke with Superintendent Karl Black.

They came to the conclusion of conducting "business as usual" in regards to time of drill.

The initial target date is Thursday, April 8, 2010 at Burnett Elementary because the drill was rained out in 2009. At the primary school the drill includes evacuation. In the past other schools in the district do drop, cover, and hold drills at the same time.

Schools have to do a drop, cover, and hold drill every month, so the EPC is working with Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) to incorporate this into the Great Shake Out, an event where schools all throughout California, possibly all along the West Coast, participate in a drop, cover and hold drill on the same day at the same time.

The official term is drop, cover and hold, formerly duck, cover and hold.

EPC members filled out Disaster Service Worker (DSW) cards. These are disaster licenses that enable citizens to help during a citywide emergency, and affords possibility of worker's compensation if injured while assisting the City during a disaster.

The next regularly scheduled EPC meeting is Thursday, November 19, 2009, 7 p.m., in the City Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at the Milpitas Police Department.

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