Policy assessment paper Essay

Unless Natural Disasters or Manmade threats happen within the city you live in, it is hard to truly grasp the severity of the damage it can cause and how important it is to have a well thought out plan for preparing and responding to these things. Living in California, most people who do not live here assume the only Threat or Hazard we deal with are Wild fires and Earthquakes; But in reality California deals with so much more than just those two things. The city of Palo Alto is in Northern California, near the area where all the fires happen every year. But surprisingly, Palo Alto is at risk to many different natural and manmade disasters that they have to prepare for every year. In order to keep the planning organized, the city office of emergency services lead their process by “developing, maintaining, and sustaining a citywide, comprehensive, all hazard, risk-based emergency management program that engages the whole community” ("The City of Palo Alto THIRA"," 2017, p. 5) .

Because there are so many different hazards and risks within this city and the surrounding areas, the city and the stakeholders had to address all impacts in three categories. Those categories put an emphasis on how it “impacts [the] people, impacts [the] property and impacts the local economy” which makes it easier for the city to facilitate what they need to plan for ("The City of Palo Alto THIRA"," 2017, p. 20). In the table shown on page 21 of their THIRA, it shows that earthquakes and floods are at a high category and severe weather, and wildfires are in a medium category. This means that Earthquakes and floods have a higher chance of impacting the economy, people and property over wild fires and severe weather within this city and the areas surrounding it. However, because this was updated in 2017 it does not take into account the wildfires that occurred in 2018 and how close this area was to being hit with the fires. Also dealing with technological hazards, the city and stakeholders went on to create a table based on the most common technological hazards and score them from high to low on which ones they are more likely to deal with. It shows that: Urban fires, airplane accidents and hazardous material spills are more likely to occur in their area than any other issue.

Once all of their researched was gathered, they were able to create a table showing the threats and hazards that they are mostly concerned about. In the diagram on page 24, shows that the highest concerns for natural disasters are earthquakes, floods, and severe storms. The highest concerns they have for technological hazards are airplane accidents, hazardous waste/material spills and urban fires; and for human-caused hazards they were mostly concerned about were major crimes, cyber-attacks, workplace violence and civil disorder. Throughout this THIRA they go into more depth on how the city and stakeholders “researched each of the hazards/threats to developed a more complete understand of their characteristics” in order to be more prepared when something arises ("The City of Palo Alto THIRA"," 2017, p. 24). Delving deeper, the City of Palo Alto defines the relative risks to these hazards by creating Hazard profiles to show detailed characteristics of the hazards that are most likely to occur. Each of these profiles contains the following components:

Application mode: describing the human act(s) or unintended event(s) necessary to cause the hazard to occur. Duration: the anticipated length of time the hazard is present on the target. Dynamic/Static Characteristic: describing the hazard’s tendency, or that of its affects, to either expand, contract, or remain confined in time, magnitude, and space. Mitigating Conditions: It shows the characteristics of the target and its physical environment that can reduce the effects of a hazard. Exacerbating Conditions: characteristics that can enhance or magnify the effects of a hazard ("The City of Palo Alto THIRA"," 2017, p. 25).

In dealing with mitigating damages to any earth quakes that happen in their city they are very firm on their building codes and structures. By making sure their “building code seismic safety restrictions and provides incentives for seismic retrofits of structures in the university avenue/ downtown area” as well as doing a geological and soil investigation for developing any type of construction in certain areas in the city because of greater risks in a natural disaster ("The City of Palo Alto THIRA"," 2017, p. 26). In regards to flooding, the city staff have to enforce “the flood plain management regulations for specified building activity in Special Flood Hazard Areas, as depicted on FEMA’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps” ("The City of Palo Alto THIRA"," 2017, p. 25-26). Due to the city being near the bay area, they are at a higher risk of flooding because of the rising sea levels, which has the city council members constantly keeping up to date on the plans to prevent things from being destroyed. Within this THIRA it breaks each hazard down to the things I listed above, which allows the community to feel at ease before the disaster hits and even after the disaster hits.

The City of Palo Alto has a system that works for them because they allow many opportunities for the citizens to be involved in the Cities Resiliency. These programs are all voluntary for any one including Emergency Personnel, and it provides all types of resources for them to utilize during threats/disasters. Some of the programs are the “Neighborhood and Block Preparedness Coordinator program, Palo Alto CERT Program, Palo Alto Auxiliary Communications Services (ARES/RACES) and Palo Alto Medical Reserve Corp” ("The City of Palo Alto THIRA"," 2017, p. 43). They also provide different types of training for the community, the main one being the See Something, Say Something campaigns that help the city stay attentive on these Hazards and Disasters.

When reading over the EOP for the City of Palo Alto they talked a lot about the Whole Community Approach where it includes all of the community in the “phases of emergency management” (“The City of Palo Alto’s EOP",” 2016, p.9). Within the EOP they have broken down the way things are handled in different categories such as: public warning, evacuations plans, resource mobilization, staging, mutual aid requests and proclamation of a local emergency. The main thing that will really help prepare the citizens and get them to respond in a quick manner of time is their Emergency Alert System and the AlertSCC. The emergency alert system warns the citizens through different media resources, which allows a faster response. The other system they use is a county-wide alert and notification system which is very informative because it allows all the citizens to be notified of any critical incidents and provides instructions on what to do in times of disasters. These two things alone can help prepare communities when a disaster or hazard strikes.

I like how Palo Alto truly embraces the FEMA approach to include the whole community when trying to prepare for these types of things. When reading this EOP it clearly shows how they want their city to be “adequately prepared” and they are ”required to actively participate in preparedness and planning activities to include the development of departmental plans, policies, and procedures as necessary to fulfill their assigned roles and obligations (“The City of Palo Alto’s EOP”",2016, p. 1). If all cities stuck to their THIRA and EOP plans when it came to any disasters (even disasters they don’t normally experience) they will have a better chance at being able to pick the pieces back up from the disaster or hazard that struck. As a community member I feel that being included in these plans are pertinent to how quickly the reaction to respond is.

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