Disaster preparedness is important for everyone, and it takes many different forms. The Sustainability and Solid Waste (SSW) program in the Department of Transportation and Development has several projects that support disaster preparedness.
Our program, like all programs in the county, is responsible for having a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP). This plan has been drafted to lay out steps for how the program’s essential functions will be maintained in the face of a disruption. SSW shares this plan with each incoming employee, and reviews portions of the plan periodically in staff meetings. We also stock key supplies in the office and in our fleet vehicles in case of an emergency.
In addition to the preparedness of the program itself, SSW has a key role in planning for how to respond to disasters that create debris in the county. When disasters cause trees and limbs to fall, dirt and mud to flow across roads, or buildings to collapse, the debris can be extremely complicated to clear away, especially if there is a lot of it! Clearing debris can be one of the highest costs of major disasters. SSW works with the other divisions of Transportation and Development, Disaster Management, Finance and County Counsel to develop a plan that addresses those challenges, and complies with FEMA’s requirements to get a portion of those costs covered by federal aid.
Another project that SSW is leading that ties in to disaster preparedness is the development of a new climate action plan for the county. Climate change makes natural hazards like floods and wildfire more frequent and more extreme. The climate action plan will look at ways to reduce the greenhouse gasses that cause climate change, which over the long term can minimize impacts that we would otherwise expect to see. The climate action plan will also look at ways to reduce our vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, which might include new or differently designed infrastructure, changes in code or policies, or changes in the way we manage land use and zoning. The climate action plan is a countywide effort, and will include many ways for the public to be part of the discussion.
These projects are examples of how disaster preparedness can look very different depending on the specific context. These different forms of disaster preparedness all contribute to helping us be better able to handle whatever emergencies we may face.