Flood Preparedness

It is understandable that local government isn’t prepared for evacuating those who would need help doing so when serious flooding occurs, as who they are and where they are changes daily and tracking their status would tax us to death.

Thinking optimally about flood protection seems the more appropriate route for the richest and most technologically sophisticated civilization in human history, and taking 500 year flood protection as the minimum with 1,000 year as the preferred standard, will wind up costing less in the long run ( if disaster happens) than muddling along with preparedness plans that never seem to work.

In Sacramento’s case, optimal thinking about flood protection would include building the Auburn Dam, raising Folsom Dam and strengthening the levees, all moving towards approval.

An excerpt.

Sacramento jurors rip county over lack of flood evacuation plan
By Phillip Reese and Terri Hardy — Bee Staff Writers Published 12:01 am PDT Saturday, July 1, 2006

Sacramento County leaders haven’t met their obligations to protect and shelter elderly and disabled residents who may need help getting out of a flooded area during a disaster, the Sacramento County grand jury wrote in a report released Friday.

And, in a separate finding, the grand jury faulted the way the Sacramento City Unified School District handled a retirement buyout, questioning whether district officials were upfront with constituents about what they were doing.

With the Sacramento region’s high flood risk, county officials have worried about a situation similar to Hurricane Katrina, in which evacuation of the elderly and disabled was problematic.

A Bee analysis in January of census data and state flood maps found that more than 150,000 poor, elderly and disabled residents live in Sacramento areas prone to flooding.

Without “fully developed standard operating procedures for a mass evacuation due to a flood disaster,” the county isn’t prepared to help many of those people, the grand jury wrote.

Rick Martinez, the county’s emergency operations coordinator, said such a plan is in the works and should be ready by the fall. It’s taking a while to formulate, he said, because it needs to be thorough and effective.

“I want to make sure that it will work on a moment’s notice,” he said.

The county does not know where thousands of its most vulnerable residents are living, emergency officials and community advocates say. The grand jury called on county officials to bolster efforts to identify places where vulnerable groups congregate — nursing homes, homeless shelters and care institutions, for example.

“Unfortunately, the goal of identifying and locating every such person at any given time is illusory, since the data are in a constant state of flux,” the report said.

The county should build a database of vulnerable residents by “giving notice to people that they can fill out something that says they are a shut-in,” said Sharon Mamuyac-Floyd, a local resident with post-polio syndrome who until recently was a member of the county’s Disability Advisory Committee.

The grand jury said total reliance on the government to save you during a flood would be “misplaced” because the county “does not have the resources to identify, track and care for the needs of all, or perhaps even most (medically fragile residents) in a major emergency.”

Martinez conceded that fact, adding that collecting data on where these people live would be helpful, but “I wouldn’t want to give the public the perception that we would be able to evacuate all the people on the list.”

To pick up some of the slack, the grand jury called on private agencies and care groups to help. But that will help only to a limited extent, said Michael Dunne, an advocate for Resources for Independent Living. The private agencies, Dunne said, don’t have the resources to help all their clients evacuate, either.

So what can be done?

One of the key answers to that question, Martinez said, lies in public education — another point made by the grand jury: Vulnerable residents need to make plans for getting out of a flood zone on their own because there’s no guarantee the government will be able to move them.

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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