Pasadena is Ready for The Big One, But It Will be Costly

Public safety committee report details City’s disaster recovery preparations

Published : Thursday, October 17, 2019 | 4:47 AM

Pasadena last faced citywide damage after a windstorm in 2011 toppled thousands of trees and damaged buildings, costing the city over $18 million to recover. Photo courtesy City of Pasadena.

When “The Big One” hits – and it will – Pasadena will be ready to recover rapidly, but it will be costly, according to a presentation to the City’s Public Safety Committee Wednesday.

The emphasis of the presentation by Public Information Officer Lisa Derderian was less about preparedness for a disaster itself, but making sure the City could still function and recover quickly following a large-scale event.

Pasadena created Disaster Management Area C in 2004 Along with other agencies and cities “to promote the coordination of disaster management, planning and preparedness efforts of the parties by cooperative planning, training and related activity.” The group is comprised of the cities of Alhambra, Burbank, Glendale, La Canada Flintridge, Monterey Park, Pasadena, San Fernando, San Gabriel, San Marino, South Pasadena and Los Angeles County.

Much of the latest changes in the plan were the result of the damage the City sustained in the windstorm of 2011, when the Pasadena was tied up for days without power and thousands of public and private trees fell onto buildings and streets. That cost the City about $18 million in recovery costs.

“Recovery will be costly in a large disaster,” said City Manager Steve Mermell, who cited the City of Paradise in Northern California which was “devastated” in last year’s Camp Fire.

The firestorm killed 85 people, while burning more than 153,000 acres for more than two weeks last November. Nearly 14,000 residences were destroyed.

“There would be a lot of damages here, and a lot of cost,” said Mermell.

Many businesses might close, he said, cutting off City sales tax revenue.

“We are prepared,” said Mermell, “but we need to drill and constantly practice [for disasters].”

According to the presentation, Federal Emergency Management Agency would reimburse 75% of eligible disaster costs, the State would pay 18.75%, and local agencies, presumably the County, would reimburse 6.25%.

Currently, according to Mermell, the city holds $38.1 in emergency contingency funds, along with another $12.7 in operating contingency funds, for a total of $50.8 million.

Emergency recovery plans will involve the City’s accounting systems, emergency contracts and purchasing, as well as planning for any successions necessary. Pasadena is also part of the California Disaster Service Worker program which allows City employees to be pressed into service, as needed, in the event of a disaster.

Since the 2011 windstorms, the City has developed a Citizen Service Center, a PWP Outage Management System, as well as enhanced Neighbor Helping Neighbor programs, such as CERT and Disaster Preparedness training.

The City has also created the Pasadena Local Emergency Alert System (PLEAS), a neighborhood notification program and enhanced its social media network. In addition, Pasadena has developed a streamlined debris management plan with a quicker permit process and inspections.

The City’s Mutual Aid agreements with its internal departments such as Public Safety and Public Works have also been reinforced as well as agreements with County, State and Federal agencies, according to the presentation.

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