By Khalida Sarwari
If an emergency happened today, Cupertino would not be fully prepared to handle it.
That’s the finding of the city’s emergency services coordinator.
In a recent presentation to the Cupertino City Council, Clare Francavilla noted that it would take up to five hours to set up the city’s primary emergency operations center at City Hall when it should ideally take no more than two hours. What’s more, City Hall is not big enough nor seismically sound, she said.
The city also needs a backup emergency operations center in case the first one isn’t accessible for whatever reason, such as if the road is blocked, said Francavilla.
Councilwoman Savita Vaidhyanathan wondered why the city’s corporate yard isn’t being considered as a potential location, with a portable that’s equipped with all the necessary supplies ready to go in case of a large-scale disaster or citywide emergency.
“From what I understood, that location is ideal even for the county because it’s easy access from the freeway and I definitely know cell phones work there,” she said. “I’ve never had five bars anywhere in the city except there.”
Francavilla said the corporate yard is a location worth looking into as part of an ongoing process to get the city up to speed on emergency preparedness. Her presentation was a follow-up to a decision by the council last year to designate $385,000 for the establishment of an office of emergency services that would create and maintain strategies for a variety of emergency situations. And so far, it appears there is much work to be done.
The city still needs a plan to reach out to residents and staff needs to be trained to handle emergencies and disasters, Francavilla said. Another thing on the big to-do list, she said, is a call center that is capable of handling a high volume of calls during a disaster.
“By updating, preparing and maintaining at least a semi-functional EOC, we will have a familiar place in which to perform those duties and functions,” she said. “We will be able to ramp up our response efforts in an efficient period of time.”
There were a few other suggestions by the council members and one resident that addressed the council. Vaidhyanathan recommended finding a way to get more residents to use AlertSCC, an emergency alert system for people who work or live in Santa Clara County. She also inquired about the possibility of sharing resources with nearby cities, such as Saratoga. City Manager David Brandt said he’d been in talks with Saratoga, Los Altos Hills and Los Gatos about establishing a regional emergency operations center. The hard part, he said, is identifying a suitable, but mutually agreed upon location.
Mayor Darcy Paul threw his support behind Vaidhyanathan’s corporate yard idea, and also suggested that the city work in coordination with the local school and college districts.
Councilman Barry Chang asked Francavilla to find out from emergency responders involved in the North Bay fires what worked and didn’t work, an idea that Francavilla appeared to support.
Resident Jennifer Griffin wondered if the city was considering using the local emergency radio channel as a means of reaching out to residents in the event of an emergency.
“Having that emergency channel available coming in especially on car radios is a very, very important point of communication, because a lot of times you may be out driving in areas and something will have happened and the car — I mean I use my car radio all the time — but when a disaster happens, you may be out in your car somewhere in the middle of the night,” she said.
Francavilla expects to return to the city with updates in the coming months. And, the city is planning to hold its first ever disaster preparedness fair on June 23.