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Are we prepared for disasters?

By Lisa Brody
News Editor
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"The municipal websites are really popular, as is the state's website, and there's local media. Local municipalities can do their best to get information out, but being a good neighbor and advising your friends and family that a state of emergency has taken place is the most reliable way of communicating in an emergency (if all the power goes out)," said Rochester Hills Assistant Fire Chief/Fire Marshall Bill Cooke. "The best way may be going outside and telling your neighbor."

FEMA advises everyone to stock their homes with at least three days worth of water, food, medicine, and pet food, and to have an emergency radio with a three-day supply of batteries available in the case of a catastrophic event and power outage. An emergency radio can access weather radio stations and news radios, which inform the public.

"Ultimately, people are responsible to do the right thing. Like in Houston (and Florida), there's not enough resources to evacuate everyone by emergency services. The most important thing is to stay calm, listen for information, and don't panic," said Birmingham Assistant Fire Chief John Donohue. "We do joint training with Oakland County, and we're integrated in with other communities in case we're called to assist one another. There are situations where, in sharing of resources, any one of us could become a public information officer for another."

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, a veteran of both Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath of 9/11, understands the needs for communications in the event of a complete power failure. "We found communications are non-existent. We had to set up portable communications towers, because all power, telephone, and cell towers were down post-9/11 and Katrina," he said.

While preparations are improved in the last dozen years, there are still holes in the system, he acknowledged, urging people to make preparations, just as the county is constantly improving their systems and coordination.

Hardesty said they coordinate with other counties, routinely meeting and training with other counties as part of the Urban Area Security Initiative in the state. Oakland County, along with Macomb and St. Clair counties, are in Region 2N, part of the Urban Area Security Initiative with Wayne, Washtenaw and Monroe counties and the city of Detroit. "Grants go to the district to benefit the region and support regional intiatives," he said.

While they prefer not to release evacuation and jurisdictional plans due to security concerns, Hardesty said they have very detailed plans of intersections, including aerial photographs, of who goes where and which department directs what specific part of a plan.

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