LATHROP – Say the levee breaks.
Or a massive earthquake were to rock the community and knock out major communication lines.
The list goes on, but so do the contingency plans that Lathrop city officials, fire personnel and law enforcement representatives have spent the last several years crafting in the event that the unexpected were to occur – regardless of what that unexpected might be.
And just about everything has been thought of, considered, talked through and planned around by the municipal minds that know the most about the City of Lathrop and how best to interact with other neighboring agencies.
Throw in the fact that Lathrop has to deal with the levees that provide protection from a rising San Joaquin River and that the community essentially sits at the chokepoint of three major Central Valley freeway routes and it’s easy to see why prior planning is so important.
Earlier this week the Lathrop City Council had San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services Executive Director Michael Cockrell on hand to talk about the importance of crafting an adequate hazard contingency plan, and Cockrell talked openly about the need for both ongoing “table top” scenario breakdowns as well as live in-field exercises to test the responses that are talked about abstractly amongst the departments that would mobilize in the event of an emergency.
Lathrop hasn’t deployed those types of resources since the San Joaquin River swelled in 2011 and threatened rural homes and properties. Real-life drills could become commonplace within the next two years as the city tightens up its existing plan.
But the council wasn’t necessarily worried so much about evacuation routes and who is going to do what when the big one hits. What they wanted to know about, almost across the board, was what was going to happen when communication into the city went down.
Currently council officials have the ability to send out phone calls, text messages and cellular notifications to a designated area in the event of an emergency – urging residents to evacuate on short notice or even telling them to remain sheltered because it isn’t safe to leave their houses.
But when cell phone towers go down and home phone lines go down, Councilman Steve Dresser asked, what options are on the table?
Cockrell said that most cities, Lathrop included, have redundancies that are constructed to continue transmissions even if power were to somebody become cut. Extra lines exist to allow for emergency communication to continue unabated, and contacts with mobile companies to come and erect temporary cell towers powered by generators have become much more prevalent in the last several years as the technology to be able to perform such a task has become much more accessible.