Westminster PD, along with the rest of the Westminster Civic Center, will be ready when disaster strikes.
Employees at the PD, the West Justice Center and City Hall practiced their preparedness on Oct. 15 with the Great California Shake Out followed by an extensive evacuation drill to test their emergency plan.
“This is important because if there is a real-world event that everyone needs to evacuate, such as an earthquake, we need to know where we’re going to have problems,” said Sgt. Jim Kingsmill, who helped run the drill. “We need to know where we should adjust our plan.”
Members of the police department scurried under desks after the announcement that a mock earthquake struck Westminster and waited several minutes before running the evacuation plan.
Police, court and city employees spilled from their buildings into the courtyard and followed protocol laid out in the plan.
All in all, the exercise ran smoothly.
“I expected a little more chaos,” Emergency Management Coordinator Denise Davis joked. “It went very well.”
With nearly 30 years experience drafting emergency plans, Davis was hired by Westminster about two months ago to help the city prepare for anything from floods to a major earthquake.
Davis encourages employees to explicitly follow plans so that in the event of a real tragedy, training kicks in and getting to safety is second nature.
“During these drills, we have everyone do exactly what they would in the real thing,” she said. “If you practice taking the stairs instead of the elevator, during an emergency you will remember to take the stairs.”
Davis and Kingsmill also surveyed the department’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) after the drill — the room on the first floor of the PD that would serve as a command post for city operations in an emergency.
“The entire city would run out of this room,” Davis said. “This center coordinates and supports all of the field responders so we can stay focused on the emergency or disaster.”
The room is equipped with electrical outlets run by generators to keep power up, a stock of HAM radios ready if telephone lines go down and organized charts that can take the place of computers to monitor first responders.
“There is so much coordination that has to go on,” Davis said. “The EOC is a way to track what we’re doing and make sure that everything is covered during an emergency.”
Although this exercise was organized to be good practice for Westminster employees, it also serves as a reminder for residents to prepare with their own families should a catastrophic event hit.
“In the case of a disaster, police services may not get to you on time so we need to all be practicing this at home,” said Cmdr. Cameron Knauerhaze. “We hope the public sees that they also need to prepare and plan.”
Here are some tips from ReadyOC to help your family prepare:
- If there is a wide-spread emergency, it is very likely residents will be on their own for the first 72 hours because public safety services may be very limited or unavailable.
- Draft an emergency plan for your family that covers how you will contact each other, find each other and what to do in different scenarios. Plan templates can be downloaded from readyoc.org.
- Designate an out-of-town contact for each person in your family. During an emergency, it can be easier to make a long distance phone call than call across town.
- Stock at least three gallons of water for each person in your family for drinking and sanitation and at least three days of food supplies.
- Include a flashlight, radio, batteries and maps in your emergency kit. Also add a first-aid kit and whistle. For a more extensive emergency list checklist visit readyoc.org.