The city is ready, on paper at least, for any disaster. But to make sure that city staff is prepared to act in the face of a fire, mud slides, a major earthquake or a tsunami — that’s right, a tsunami — Malibu’s emergency services coordinator, Hap Holmwood, is currently conducting a series of study sessions and training exercises to ensure that the staff is ready for any emergency.
All local jurisdictions in the state are required to have an emergency management plan, and the city recently received word from the state’s Office of Emergency Management Services that the city’s plan complies with state regulations. But the state also wants to see that the staff knows the function of each city department during emergencies and how to implement the general organizational plan that will be used at the time. Additionally, state and federal law requires each city to coordinate its emergency response with neighboring communities and a variety of government agencies in order to be reimbursed for disaster-related expenses.
At a study session last week, Holmwood stressed the importance of the staff coordinating its response efforts with other cities and a host of emergency personnel.
“If something big happens and we don’t get reimbursed, then we’re out of business,” said Holmwood.
The large conference room at City Hall, which is hooked up to a generator, is the staging area for the city’s response to a major emergency. If City Hall is inaccessible, a second, back-up location is planned for Bluffs Park. Holmwood said the city is currently shopping for a trailer to serve as the operation center at the park.
Members of the planning department will be tested this week on the emergency plan, and, on Sept. 25, Holmwood has scheduled a tsunami preparation exercise at the Malibu Colony Plaza.
Because a tidal wave is a possibility following a major earthquake (as was the case recently in Papua New Guinea) Holmwood said the city needs to be prepared for the rare, but disastrous event. He plans to ask students in Malibu to participate in the training when school is back in session.
Holmwood, who described Malibu as “the disaster capital of the world,” said he anticipates the state will test the staff’s knowledge of the city’s emergency plan.
“I fully expect to be audited,” he said. “We’re one of the biggest spenders of disaster funds.”