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Original post made
on Jun 3, 2011
Palo Alto Volunteers have logged thousands of hours , training, volunteering and preparing for the inevitable. We all want what is best for our neighborhoods.A Safe clean environment, organized to deliver aid to areas that government services would be strained to provide during a serious earthquake or other natural disaster. Remember the first 72 is on you.
Be trained, be prepared, be ready to help.
Sounds like a good idea. If this is to succeed then the City Manager or Police Chief need to find the right " leader" to oversee this. That means someone who has at least a minimum of 5 to 8 years with emergency operations management experience including operating a program like this. A college degree in emergency managment with classess from FEMA and having " actual" experience from another city or again 7 to 10 years in actual hands on with the appropriate courses under their belt. We have NO one within Palo Alto who can fill that bill. This has got to be someone from outside who has no personal connections to any " group" who might want to influence the proper operation. The only question is are the city PANDA's/ CERTS or other volunteers really prepared to jump into action under extreme conditions if called upon. All the training and money spent will not mean anything unless these good willing people are capable of working under extreme nasty conditions. So it would be good to have these volunteers have routine real life training drills like the firefighters have on a routine basis. Their is nothing worse then the rescuer having to be rescued when they are not properly trained. How many of these volunteers are medically prepared and have been screened to make sure that they can physcially be involved. if they have back problems or heart problems/ high blood pressure or other medical issues that might compromise the other volunteers shouldn't the city require a routine annual physcial to cover their butts against injuries? When we hire our police and firefighters they must pass a physical agility test.So why not require this of these volunteers. Or does Palo Alto have deep pockets to cover their injuries. Maybe cooperating and working with the fire department and its personnal woiuld make more sense and having an administrator to oversee the current program in conjunction with the " Public Safety Chief" make more sense. How about looking at what other cities of about the same size are doing before allocating funding to a program that may become to complex. Just a thought.
The cool thing about sworn CERT volunteers they are covered under workmans comp,convergent volunteers. Palo Alto has done a fantastic job with the light training provided. These volunteers (CERT) should have a choice made available to go into a heavier training. As a USAR professional, I believe with little fine tuning we can have a very prepared community of volunteers that will limit our exposure. I applaud the efforts of the PAFD and staff to bring our community up to speed. There have been many hurdles, we are still here, ready to fill sand bags or do what it takes to keep our community safe.
Have a go bag in your car, the first 72 is on you!!!
"getting the Citizen Corps Council more involved in all things relating to emergency response. The citizens' group should be elevated to the level of an official city commission"
What is the make up of the Citizen Corps Council and how do people join? Is it by invitation of existing members? ... not very democratic and probably not terribly representative of the broadest cut of Palo Alto interests if so. It would seem that a better source for a city commission on this be the PAN, or better yet, a cross section of all of the existing emergency groups, with an equal representation from the boots on the ground or personnel directly responsible for citizen preparedness in Fire and Police Depts.
We already have emergency management - the Mayor, assisted by fire and police chiefs. If the current occupants of those offices are not capable, they should resign and let competents replace them.
Walter has a point!
The California Avenue business district participated in the state-wide Golden Guardian exercise and the subsequent county-wide Silver Sentinel exercise, several years ago. Both went without a hitch.
Had Golden Guardian been a real emergency, information given to authorities (in only 35 minutes) would have saved lives & minimized suffering.
CERT & PAN are valuable resources, and outreach to Stanford & others in the greater community has been ongoing, since Day One of Judy Kleinberg's E-Prep Red Ribbon committee. It makes sense to keep the momentum going on an idea that has been working.
City staffers that facilitated both exercises (primarily Officer Ken Dueker) were terrific. Annette has had her finger on the pulse of this issue since long before the Red Ribbon committee. So it's commendable that council & the city manager's office are heeding the wisdom all these people have gleaned over the years, seeing this project remains efficient & becomes even more successful.
Kudos to Palo Alto leadership! In California, it's not "if" there will be an emergency, but rather, it's "when". Best to be prepared and with everyone on the same page.
Let's see. A director and two assistants. New positions invented in a budget crisis.
I'm with Walter. Most firefighters and chiefs spend most of their time hanging out and could definitely do a lot of this work while waiting for the firebell.
I don't want to lose emergency services, but it makes sense that they could oversee emergency preparedness in their down time.
We can't afford to take on 3 new administrators!!
For those new to TSF: Walter_E_Wallis has played the game of constantly shifting what he means as people have pointed out the absurdities and contradictions in his statements. And he feigns basic ignorance of Palo Alto City government:
1). Palo Alto hasn't had a fire chief for a year and all indications are that it is moving to a combined PD/FD chief.
2). The head of government is the City Manager, not the Mayor. The former is the equivalent of a CEO, the later, Chairman of the Board of Directors.
I call this feigned ignorance because Wallis acknowledged these points when corrected in a recent thread.
Hi Doug: I always appreciate your wise perspective on issues. It's so much easier to understand the point of a comment when a writer sticks to the issue and provides facts only, and does not rely on what so many people are doing these days: name calling and labeling people with viewpoints that disagree. It was due to the latter that I had to re-read your post a couple of times, before understanding it.
So keeping to the issue - I'll toss this recollection out, as it may help others:
A few years ago, at a community barbecue at the fire station by Page Mill Road, when Jim Keene was brand new in Palo Alto, he gave a short speech in which he mentioned city council members were his bosses, or words to that affect. Perhaps I misheard what he said, but I always remembered that. Please do correct me, if I'm wrong.
With that said, it's not impossible for others to be legitimately confused as to the chain of command in Palo Alto. I've heard it also said the city manager is like a 10th council member, in terms of power in Palo Alto. Albeit not recently. I heard it said under Frank Benest's administration. Whether that was ever true, I don't know for a fact. I only heard it said, and it may have been a myth, even then.
But the issue of Emergency Preparation is critically important to the community; I think it's necessary for everyone to be heard, and for all ideas to be broached, without fear of reprisal, because it's healthy to get all opinions and concerns out on the table now, from the get-go.
After having been involved for so long, I enthusiastically support this project and applaud everyone who's working to move it forward. Looks like whomever has power in Palo Alto, be they one or many people, all are working together now, & it's a positive development & a win/win for the community, when a disaster strikes.
Having a current, comprehensive and coherent life safety and emergency plan is important for Palo Alto. I'm glad the City Manager is finally acting on his promises and moving forward. While there are obvious benefits to this kind of planning immediately after a disaster, there are also benefits to mitigating problems in the hours and days after such an event. For example, while volunteers won't be fighting fires themselves, they can report life safety issues such as broken gas mains and downed electrical lines. This would give our emergency staff better information on how to deploy our limited community resources. Good decisions at the time of disaster can help Palo Alto recover faster, with less economic impact to it's citizens.
On the surface, it may seem contradictory to add additional headcount to the City payroll at this time. However, if it came down to a choice, I would much rather see an Emergency Services Director hired than an Airport Director and airport staff. The City is currently planning to take over the airport from the County in July, 2012 and plans to hire a director and staff to manage the facility. Since the current lease to run the airport doesn't actually expire util 2017, it would be better to postpone the accelerated airport takeover until the City's finances improve in a few years and fill the Emergency Services positions now.
" the new office's functions will also include updating the city's Emergency Operations Plan, training staff for emergencies, starting a new Medical Reserve Corps program (which would enlist local physicians as volunteers during emergencies)"
I hope this leverages the existing santa clara county health department's MVDR program that coordinates physician volunteers in disasters
Taking comments in order:
Be prepared to be on your own for a minimum of 7 days, not 3. First responders to a disaster will be overwhelmed for days. Read articles on the earthquake in Chile, Japan, and Haiti.
CERT's do have light training and can function as eyes and ears with limited assistance for several days. But each volunteer and as well as sworn personnel can only work perhaps 8 or 12 hours during one shift. A trained director and staff to provide the leadership and assure proper usage of resources is essential.
The following link will take you to the Citizen Corp Council organization chart. www.citizencorps.gov).
Mr. Wallis should know that specialized training, not a title like City Manager, qualifies someone to direct a complex emergency operation with its many disparate parts.
The temporary open status of fire chief does not negate the responsibilities of that position. The mayor is ultimately responsible for the conduct in office of all subordinates. The primary responsibility of ANY officer is emergency response. The manager is just that, a manager. If you have an independent office of emergency services, who is in charge? Do the CEO and COO step aside in an emergency? When does authority devolve back? Who decides in the event of disagreement?
Walter is no troll.
He makes valid points, pithy comments, and keeps his comments brief. I may not always agree with him, but I appreciate what he has to say.
He always uses his name and stands by his arguments. That is not trolling.
Emergency response happens on a larger scale than just one city so this is a waste of $1,000,000; let the regional response teams do their job coordinating police
Yesterday afternoon there was a 'medical emergency' at the Palo Alto Clinic on El Camino. Responding were one fire truck and two PAFD-owned emergency vehicles- ambulance types. They were parked outside the Urgent Care department. Inside - if a typical afternoon, there were probably 3-4 MD's and a sizeable number of RN's, CNA's, and Medical Assistants. Were there a lot of patients to be transported? If not, wasn't this an emergency 'overkill'. I know from experience three years ago that billing for a trip from that Urgent Care to Stanford cost over $1,000 then - and it is only one-sixtth of a mile!! And the paramedics love to insert an IV even though there may be one in the arm already (more $$$), and the Stanford ER personnel usually take out the IV and insert one 'their way'. Been there - had that. Another project for the PA auditor.
The situation is actually a little bizarre, but it is actually more on PAMF's set up than the City's. PAMF Urgent Care sees its shares of transports needing transport to Stanford (e.g. people coming in with strokes, heart attacks, etc.) PAMF has the option of either calling 9-1-1 or using a private ambulance provider. Most of the time PAMF *DOES CALL* a private ambulance provider (which is actually very helpful for the city, because it alleviates unnecessary pressure on the 9-1-1 system for the short distance that you noted) and PAMF regularly uses them (these private ambulance providers can also be *prescribed* to go red lights and sirens by the treating physician at PAMF). However, sometimes the contracted private ambulance provider isn't able to provide an ambulance (i.e. they are already on other transports), so PAMF ends up defaulting to the 9-1-1 system. The 9-1-1 system will send a typical response to every medical emergency, with the assumption that there are no medical providers on scene. (It's a bad idea to assume otherwise. Just because you have 2 MDs and 2 RNs on scene doesn't mean that they can all help with that particular patient...they have other people to take care of!)
Just a thought. PAMF is a pretty busy facility and you would be surprised how many people end up in Urgent Care when they should have gone directly to the Emergency Department.
> 2). The head of government is the City Manager, not the Mayor.
> The former is the equivalent of a CEO, the later,
> Chairman of the Board of Directors.
Palo Alto has a charter. While it is very vague about many issues--it pretty much defines the City Manager as the person who manages the City, the Mayor has virtually no power under the current Charter .. and certainly their is no reference to "Chairman of the Board".
People are free to think what they want--like this poster--put it would pay for people who constantly pontificate about their wisdom and knowledge to at least couch their thoughts inside the framework of the City Charter.
> Mr. Wallis should know that specialized training, not a title like
> City Manager, qualifies someone to direct a complex emergency
> operation with its many disparate parts.
That's not what the Charter says. The whole idea of bringing in an Emergency Manager creates a bit of a "Charter Crisis", since the Charter clearly puts managing the City in the City Manager's office. The whole issue becomes even more complicated when we begin to look at liability. The City goes out of its way to avoid liability for just about everything that it is involved in. The crash of the plane in Feb/2010 showed just how almost cowardly the City was when it came to not providing a hardened electrical feed into the City's grid, and to then to refuse to pay people for the damage done when they couldn't provide power. When it comes to failures on the part of City Officials, it's not long before one is knee-deep in lawyers just to find out what happened.
If we need an Emergency Services Manager--then why do we need a City Manager? This is another genuflect to a small number of retired people who have far too much time on their hands--and few organizational skills, or understanding of government liability.
OES, Office of Emergency Services.
Perfect, City Manager/Council of Palo Alto have been advising the press and the public about budget problems, too many costs associated with employees, number of city employess, etc.
Now they want to spend more money and establish yet another city department with its own staff, organization chart and budget. Complete with another one or more well paid managers.
The City has a police dept and fire dept already. It seems it would make more sense to establish this program as a new division under on of the already existing depts? Why add another separate dept that will only require more funding. Recent studies have listed lack of overhead staff in the PAFD has actualy hurt programs like Fire prevention, education, EMS and training. Instead of fixing those current problems the City Managers answer is take at least $500,000 away from the FD and use that money to fund new separate dept? which begs the question how the City is going to improve current problems in FD.
Being the PAPD and PAFD are the departments given the authority and responsibility to handle emergencies now, I would think the City would have the proposed new department operate as a division under either or one of the current emergency services dept.
I'm sure the new department proposed by the City Manager will be either a current displaced non PD or FD department manager or some friend of the current city manager.
Being the PAPD and PAFD handle emergencies already how would the chain of command chart work with this new proposed department? when push comes to shove who will have the authority to make life and death orders and policy?
How do so many other cities larger and smaller manage to handle this same issue without establishing another entire separate dept with of course another department head manager? A new department manager will just be one more dept head looking to get a piece of the Operating Budget of the City for their dept.
Just one more layer of "The Palo Alto Process" to deal with. How will this department be really funded? will it offset it's costs at all? will there be a new fee structure?
Even in tough economic times the City Manager and City Council seem to have no problem adding employee's and new departments to City costs. They can't pay for the current program and employees costs we have now! but they are actualy OK with adding more? Only in Palo Alto!
Personally, I have a preference in seeing the City put money into a Firefighter Reserve/Cadet programs, where potential recruits would sign on for 1-2 years. These recruits would need to live near Palo Alto (Perhaps 15 miles of Palo Alto), meet physical agility standards (such as the CPAT) with the expectation that they will report in to Palo Alto during times where "surge" capacity is needed (i.e. they do not have any other responsibilities with any other agencies). The Reserves would be assigned shifts to constantly train with line firefighters and go out on calls (e.g. being the 4th person on the Engine). They would also take a front-line role in fire prevention (smoke alarm checks, outreach to schools/senior centers, etc)
The perks to the Cadet/Reserve could include things such as having an advantage in during a new round of hiring for line firefighters, on the job experience, networking, getting their Firefighter I, etc.
I don't think this idea is really that crazy (many other agencies have a Cadet/Reserve program, like San Francisco, Menlo Park, San Mateo and such to say a few). A Reserve Program could help alleviate some of the concerns with firefighters living too far away to help in a major disaster, staffing Station 8, outreach, etc.
I agree with Jake on this. There is no reason to spend our money (remember the City has little funding other than our tax money)on this when it could simply be given to the PD or FD. The research report said the FD hasn't been doing a good job of managing the OES and no City department has coordinated the City's overall effort. How about give the office to the PD and have them run it. No need for managers, just create a few senior police positions to handle it. Adding a body or two to the PD is a whole lot better than creating a brand new OES with several staff positions and hundreds of thousands of dollars of overhead.
For the "big picture" on this particular topic, Palo Alto Weekly reporters ought to interview those people that were involved in the Golden Guardian & the Silver Sentinel emergency preparation drills, and see if naysayer's opinions regarding this project holds up.
It's wonderful naysayers are being heard, and now. But will their way work? What are the specifics of their alternative plans? Will their suggestions give better results in the end? Has their method worked elsewhere?
As someone that participated in the GG and SS drills, I say the way Palo Alto is progressing so far on this has been prudent. Council and the city manager's office are being forward thinking in an area where it has been proven that a gap exists.
In a real emergency, the city will be chastised for improper preparation, paying the price in more ways than one for not taking advantage of the expertise of those that say this is needed.
Naysayers will be safely insulated from public flack at that time, and perhaps even doing a 180 themselves, complaining if they personally are adversely affected in an emergency.
It's likely that naysayers were never involved in any real drills. So questions that beg to be asked are - is their opinion based on knee-jerk reactions due to scant information in a newspaper article? Or is it based on factual data from a real emergency?
Was their opinion based on other issues that came up in Palo Alto, issues where the city's proposals & actions may have been less than wise? All opinions must be heard & weighed. But official action must be taken based only on fact.
In the meantime, everyone is wise to prepare for 7 days of no outside help at their residence and at their place of work, and to get to know their residential and business neighbors, suggesting they do the same, so in an emergency, everyone will be aquainted and prepared. Kudos to the volunteers that have done so much to help the community, by bringing awareness to E-Prep.
From the city (City Manager, Council, citizen's) point of view, there are a couple of obvious reasons not to put OES under the FD or PD:
1.) The FD has is largely influenced by the union. They have largely created a mind set in the public's eye that they are an expensive cost center. The FD has become an intransigent, militant group that is difficult to work with. There is going to be a visceral and cerebral reaction to avoid doing putting any more responsibility to a dept with this reputation.
2.) FD and PD employees retirement & pension costs are a huge issue. Why would any rational manager put additional resources in to a dept where to employees are going to retire at 50, with 90% pension etc. Mkaes no financial sense.
Give one example or name of any FD or PD employee who is "going to retire with 90% pension at age 50"?
It sounds like you are a fan of increasing the number of city employees and larger goverment?
I find it hard to believe people are actualy supporting a new dept in these times. Many other cities handle this issue without establishing an entire new city department with new managers.
The mayor is senior to the City Manager, and can fire him. The City Manager has operational control, not final authority.
To be clear I am in support of an efficient city government budget. I believe it is possible to have quality city services at a reasonable price. What I object to is exorbitant salaries (2-3 times the national average) for folks that spend most of their time sleeping and shopping. Creating and funding an OES dept might be the right move. I defer to the judgment of the City manager. Keeping the OES out of the FD is a wise decision from a budget and operational point of view.
I was at the Stanford shopping center around 1pm yesterday. As I was looking for a place to park, I saw a PAFD ambulance parked in the red, right in the front of a restaurant. No emergency lights on and no staff anywhere to be seen. About 10 minutes later as I was leaving, I saw the union guys come bouncing along with bags in their hands. Shopping while collecting taxpayer salaries. The arrogance and inability to comprehend the message they are sending to the taxpayers is amazing.
First step - eliminate binding arbitration
All of you who wine!!! about your public employees need to move on. They work hard, are excellent employee's, are allowed to have some freedoms that the administrators agree too, yes and they are paid well and receive good benifits. You who complain are just incredably selfish and rude! These employee's fairly negotiated their wages and benifits with the City Manager and City Council and it is sad to see that the City Council now turns their backs on cops and firefighters when we really need them for our protection. How sad that our city council members won't standby our employee's and say " we appreciate all that you do and let us see if we can work together" All this does is cause low moral and a knowledge that as city employee's that we will lose good workers to other agencies in the future.
Instead of the back stabbing and negative attacks. All of you who must be real hater's out their must be very unhappy with your lives. You chose your work and city employee's chose their work. Stop the hatred and support our Firefighters, Police, and all of our Public Employee's. Please!
Wallis states:"The mayor is senior to the City Manager, and can fire him."
Wrong. The City Manager reports to the City Council. The City Council hires and fires the City Manager. The Mayor has no unilateral authority.
If you observed a PAFD ambulance crew doing personal shopping as you claim you saw yesterday at 1:00 then I would encourage you to call the Fire Department Administration at City Hall. 650-329-2185
You can advise office of the Fire Chief what you saw and when. You don't even have to give your name.
This isn't the first time I observed pa fd employees shopping in uniform. It is a regular occurrence. It is part of the culture. It is accepted by the management. I run in to pa fd employees more at Safeway, Costco and T&C more than I see them doing any work related tasks. Why was a pa fd engine cruising the Town & Country parking lot yesterday. More shopping? They don't have enough work to do!
This is a separate issue from the over compensation. I don't really blame the employees. They don't have enough to do so they go get lunch, cruise the stores, etc. They have their radios so they can run to the truck if necessary. I do blame the union for forcing the city to over staff. Fortunately Measure R was defeated and the city is working to adjsut staffing levels.
My experience of having volunteered in Palo Alto for 20 years, right up until Jan. 2010, is the majority of the city of Palo Alto employees are good. Even the street sweepers I worked with were wonderful and diligent in doing a good job. The folks in the Parks dept. deserve a "Thank you!" party, not only for doing their work, but for going above and beyond to make Palo Alto a nice place to be.
The thing about Parks is that EVERYONE I worked with was great = and they were all on the same page with each other, and with other departments (as much as the other departments allowed). A manager retires in Parks? We miss him. But there's another person equally qualified to take over, so they don't miss a beat.
Community Services? Excellent!! The Office of Homeland Security (Officer Ken Dueker)? The best. Police and firemen were always responsive and polite (and there are recourses, when one of them is not).
With that said, management in other departments was spotty in Palo Alto. So perhaps people may put all employees under a microscope, making generalities about the motives and intentions of them *all*, in a way where the sins of the "fathers" (managers) are being cast on everyone with a city badge, no matter their level. That's unfair. Lower level employees have their hands tied. Scrutiny is expected of management, but not of those in the field, unless there is specific and factual reason for it.
There are many reasons why a staffer could be out shopping, and it may not be personal. There are lots of people retiring (tired of being under a microscope, when they have no way of changing the mentality of higher ups?) Perhaps they were out buying a retirement gift for the retiree, on behalf of the whole department. Who knows. At least they were "Shopping Palo Alto". It's best to go on fact and not speculate.
FACT: We live in California. We have emergencies. The question is how best to handle them? Your suggestions, or ways outlined by those that had their fingers on the pulse of this topic for years.
So you have NEVER done a personal errand on your lunch/dinner hour or break? I have- many times. All your posts sound like "sour grapes".
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