On June 13th, Omnitrans joins representatives from the San Bernardino County Fire Department, the Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol, Southern California Edison, Southern California Gas Company, Verizon and other area agencies to evaluate and update the Golden Guardian 2012 tabletop exercise in the Cajon Pass. The analysis is part of the annual Golden Guardian Exercise, a statewide disaster preparedness program for first responders from local government.
The tabletop exercise focuses on a “ShakeOut” scenario, a 7.8 earthquake on the southern section of the San Andreas Fault. The Cajon Pass is of particular concern in this scenario because it sits directly on the fault and is a critical artery for transportation, electrical, gas, petroleum, water and telephone lines for the region.
“Since the events of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, it’s become increasingly important for public transit agencies to have a seat at the table for these types of discussions,” said Ray Lopez, Director of Safety and Security at Omnitrans. “We have the opportunity to collaborate on a preparedness plan with other first responders and see what works and what doesn’t when we put that plan into action.”
According to Lopez, there are small but critical details that are often overlooked in the planning process that will typically surface during a tabletop analysis. “Agencies who plan on sharing fuel in a crisis situation might suddenly realize the nozzles on their fueling stations are incompatible with each other,” he said. “Or emergency crews might want a bus to help evacuate an area an hour away, not realizing it would actually take longer for the bus to arrive. By discussing potential disaster scenarios like “ShakeOut,” we can get a clearer understanding of each others’ needs and capabilities moving forward.”
Lopez also believes that training Omnitrans employees for disaster preparedness at home as well as on the job is a critical component of the bus agency’s plan. “When a crisis strikes, things can quickly become chaotic,” said Lopez. “In addition to trying to keep routes up and running, we would need to set up shuttles to transport people to places like relief centers or hospitals. We would also need coach operators to drive those buses. If they have a home emergency plan in place and know that their families are taken care of, they will be more likely to respond.”
Omnitrans is one of the few bus agencies to have its own mobile command center, equipped with satellite phones, laptops, radios and other communications equipment. “In an emergency scenario, this would be the heart of our operation,” said Mark Crosby, Security & Loss Prevention Supervisor for Omnitrans. “Our mobile unit would become an information hub, and we would act as a liaison between Omnitrans and our partners. We would know what road conditions or crisis situations coach operators are reporting to dispatch and be able to communicate them directly to disaster crews and community partners. At the same time we would know what emergency activities are taking place on a regional level and keep our own people appraised as to what’s happening.”
“Preparedness for the next emergency is the key,” says Lopez.
Click here to view a copy of the Omnitrans Hazard and Mitigation Plan.
– Juno Kughler Carlson
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