Brookings city employees spent much of this past week learning how the new Emergency Operations Center will work in the event of a major disaster such as an earthquake, tsunami, wildfire or severe weather event.
The purpose of the center, City Manager Gary Milliman told council members in a work session, is to coordinate resources that might, in a worst-case scenario, not arrive for weeks. Those who will actually work in the facility will be emergency coordinators.
"Your ultimate responsibility will be to pay the bills," Milliman said, only half-facetiously.
He added, "You (city council) will be called into session in a different room, not at the EOC, which is operations. You're 'policy.'"
The city council will be in charge of budgets and changes, making contracts with other entities, declaring an emergency to the state, public relations and serving as liaison to other elected officials, he said.
Those in the center will manage the disaster itself, including getting things such as helicopters with food and medical supplies to the area, mapping areas and their status, getting basic services running and other immediate needs.
Milliman, in his role as manager in Fort Bragg, California, participated in major emergencies there, including a storm that knocked the power out for eight days and during which trees blocked roads; a multi-site arson incident over several days; and a civil disturbance involving environmentalists and loggers.
"In little Fort Bragg, a town the size of Brookings, 300 police officers came in from outside and set up camp at the high school," he said of that incident. "The California Department of Forestry set up a field kitchen. There were thousands of people. The California Highway Patrol sent 30 or 40 motorcyclists, in dress uniforms with the stripes down the side, and they parked their motorcycles in the middle of the road between the two crowds. We spent a few days separating the crowds and trying to avoid violence."
He further noted that new earthquake and tsunami-prediction data unveiled last week "intrigued him," as well.
"People say, 'I'll just shoot a deer, and we'll be fine,'" he said of citizens' common idea of surviving a major catastrophe. "The deer will be all gone in a week. Then they say, 'I'll plant a garden,' - do you know how much garden you have to plant to eat beets all summer?"
New earthquake data using advanced radar technology shows details of Curry County's geography, it's serpentine soils and watersheds, all pointing to more detailed analysis of the severity of a major earthquake and its subsequent tsunami.
Earthquake information can be located on various websites, including the county's, at www.co.curry.or.us and the Oregon Department of Geologic and Mineral Industries site at www.oregongeology.org, among others.