The Shafter Press - Serving the community since 1922

By Jamie Stewart
The Shafter Press 

Is city ready for disaster?

Quakes reminders to be prepared


Jamie Stewart | The Shafter Press

The Shafter Police Department sent two officers to Ridgecrest to assist in patrolling the affected areas. According to Captain Diana Burnett, there were no major issues on their watch.

The earthquakes and aftershocks over the past week in Ridgecrest make communities evaluate their readiness in the event a disaster such as those temblors hit here.

There were several fires that were a result of the quakes, as well as minor injuries, some structural damage and some people being displaced from their homes.

Is Shafter ready for a natural disaster? With the city's Emergency Operations Plan now in place, City Manager Scott Hurlbert said that the city is as well prepared as a city can be when facing a crisis.

Shafter has an Emergency Operation Center Team that is drilled in what to do in case of a disaster, with each person and agency having a specific duty when needed. Hurlbert said that, thankfully, the need has not arose since a water problem a few years ago, when Shafter residents were directed to boil their water before use due to contamination. He said, "That incident was handled very well, We couldn't have wanted anything more than the way the event was taken care of."

As part of the procedures during this recent quake, even though the event was not centered in Shafter, there were still Shafter Police Department officers, as well as public works staff, who patrolled the city, checking for gas or water leaks, or any structural damage that might have occurred.

There is also a mutual aid agreement that is utilized in situations like these, with every city in Kern County working with each other, assisting with staff, officers and whatever equipment and supplies are needed. In Ridgecrest, the Shafter Police Department sent two officers to the area to assist local law enforcement in their patrolling and policing. The city also sent two building inspectors to help assess damages and do inspections in the affected areas.

No matter how prepared a city is for a disaster, though, "it is still important for the residents to be prepared also at the individual level" Hurlbert said. "In a major disaster, it is advisable that residents try to prepare to be somewhat self sufficient for at least two or three days in the event that they are isolated from assistance."

This means having a good supply of drinking water, flashlights, extra batteries, a portable radio and nonperishable food. To that end, the recent disaster has seemed to serve as a reminder for residents to make sure they are prepared. Local stores have said that there has been an increase in sales of batteries, flashlights and other emergency supplies.

"We had a rise in sales of big hand-held flashlights and batteries, and other supplies that someone would need in an emergency," said Mohammed Mohsen, manager of True Value Hardware store, next to Apple Market. The supermarkets in town say that water sales greatly increased in the last week.

Hulbert also said that residents can get plugged in to the city's network and will be notified and alerted with information in an emergency. They can go to the Shafter Mobile app - available for android and the Apple iOS -- and sign up to receive alerts, as well as sign up to be able to report issues such as road issues, illegal dumping, etc. A link is also available on the website.

According to Hurlbert, the website can help residents on procedures to follow in case of an emergency, as well as instructions on how to prepare for disasters and what you can do to make it through them more efficiently.

The site also offers tips on what items to have on hand and what to do during a natural disaster, as well as what to do in the aftermath of the crisis.

Thomas Milagna, who has lived in Shafter for 12 years, knows that the city will have its hands full during a crisis, so he plans to try to do his part to keep safe. He was in the True Value purchasing flashlights and batteries. He had already bought a supply of water.

Ultimately, the best barometer of a city's readiness in the face of a crisis is the leadership that is in place to lead the citizenry, and also the residents themselves and how prepared they and their families are to face the disaster in their own homes.

"I think my family and I are prepared and this earthquake just was a reminder of how important it is to be prepared. We have plenty of water, a first aid kit, canned goods, a generator, flashlights, and a radio," said Jason McCallum, who has a family of five. According to storeowners in town, a lot of people are following the same example, making sure that they and their families will be ready for whatever comes their way.


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