From Liza Christian
Ashland/Medford, Oregon

Former Executive Director,
Rogue Valley Y2K Task Force

eMail: countdown@rv-y2k.org
Website: Rogue Valley Y2K Task Force
Phone: (541) 608-9265

Mailing Address:
P O Box 4247, Medford, OR 97501

 

An overview of Y2K efforts underway
in the Ashland/Medford area

 

Medford:

The first goal of the Contingency Planning Committee is to secure shelters with back-up generators (the second phase is mobilization and I'm not clear of their plan beyond that). The Jackson County response plan already includes schools as shelters, however they have no generators. School officials in our area seem to be lagging in their learning curve. Therefore an info packet was produced and several items highlighted in order to aid in this process. The three areas are: 1) general overview of the technical problem; 2) global impact, and 3) the electric grid (specifically how in spite of a rosey picture painted here that there could be some loopholes).

Our county government is overseen by three county commissioners.

The county staff under our Emergency Management Coordinator has created a 65 page booklet which will be printed in June and distributed sometime thereafter. It covers ALL disaster prep and includes (although I haven't seen the latest draft), a Y2K component. It is said to be a good piece. I don't know exactly how they plan to distribute it, and they don't seem to know either.

I do know that my town, Ashland, has agreed to buying 10,000 of them to distribute to every physical address in Ashland and the outskirts (our population is around 15,000).

One County Commissioner has been working with FEMA to get a nearby Federal Medical Domicillary designated as a field center to store supplies (including food, medical/first aid) as we are in a vulnerable situation (right in the middle of two large urban centers). If there were severe impact, those limited materials would go to the urban areas, not to us.

In Ashland, many good things have occured. Our City Administrator has done everything he possibly can within budget and other constraints. They have conducted 3 table top exercises and will do a followup in June to address some holes and/or flaws from the last exercise. The areas they'll cover are communication, shelter and electricity. (Internal communication is a potential problem because they operate on paging systems. They vendor is not yet compliant and I don't think they've factored-in satellite disruption. They are looking at CE-COMM also.)

We also have an excellent Fire Chief who is our Emergency Management Point Person. He has appointed a coordinator of CERTS (a program that is also in place in Portland, Oregon with a base of 600 citizen volunteers ). CERTS stands for Citizen Emergency Response Teams. The training covers all aspects of disaster preparedness. It includes seven weeks of training and one team exercise. Each week they do some sort of "put the fires out" drill. They have already run one full eight-week session of 28 people, are into the second and have three more booked. They are starting them every two weeks and running three sessions a week. There is a great deal of interest. The city's goal is to establish 200 citizen volunteers and then those leaders will go into their neighborhoods and begin training. The goal is to make the city self-dependent and the people inter-dependent. It is an excellent program!

In Ashland there has been one Y2K brochure in utility bill. Each month there is a Y2K column (pretty weak, but it keeps the issue before people). The City maintains a website. They are looking at RV-Y2K's CE-COMM (Citizen Emergency Communications Network). One City Councilman has been appointed to interface with the community prep groups, etc. And our administrator has been the point person for all contact so they have a consistent record. The city implemented a voice mailbox where citizens may call in questions which are screened and then answered every Friday in the local newspaper.

Overall, the city has been responsive to the questions asked of them. Some would say that the city has lagged or not done enough, but I don't think they understand government or perhaps those people have the "entitlement" mentality bred into their brains and can't see beyond their frustration. I think the immovable deadline and the overall dissatisfaction with a lack of firm leadership from Federal/State/County/City governements -- a cohesion and a sense that they really, really care about public input has caused many people to move from working in a positive way to working in an agressive, hostile way. That is unfortunate.

Each month, though, we see more being done. Certainly (in Ashland anyway), they haven't pushed it under the rug. We must always remember that Y2K is just one of many things that government is involved in resolving so that needs to be put into perspective. Some people loose sight of this.

The smaller rural towns in our area seem to be picking up the ball now and starting groups. The smaller governments don't seem to have as much red tape, or they don't have a fear of so much to loose and therefore they seem to be more aggresive in their approach -- more willing to try something new and untested but viable.

The greatest concern expressed to me by emergency management people here is the "human response" or the "wild card." They are trained to manage different types of emergencies and by experience know certain things to be predictable and manageable. With Y2K, the scene shifts depending on the climate of the Internet, the media and the remediation, plus people's own perceived fears, etc. To that end, in our area anyway, the public's response to media is being closely monitored. Safety is a key issue to them.

SOU's Family Housing is running an Emergency Prep Drill at the end of May. They have community gardens in place and have done a good deal of awareness and preparation owing to the amazing efforts of Wayne Schumacher (Family Housing second in command) who is probably well known to you. Wayne also posts the minutes of their meetings on our website.

Many of the government officials I spoke with indicated that they hoped for greater cooperation from the media -- that the message would be clear, consistent and fruitful, not alarmist. Most if not all the community planners I spoke with hoped for the same and said they thought the message (from all sectors -- government, public, and private), was getting more and more muddied; more confusing; harder to distinguish reality from perceived reality.

A group of us are working through our local PEG TV -- community access television -- to produce a video on emergency preparedness. (The reason for this is two-fold, but primarily because we haven't seen that anyone has done it yet and we see more apathy moving back in and less preparations taking place.)

This may end up being a series -- possibly three parts, the first of which will be an overview with little bite-sized chunks that anyone watching it will go away saying, "hmmm, this is doable." We are looking for funding so that it can be distributed without charge. Ideally, we would have one video for every 15-20 homes (be that apartments or single-family dwellings) and wide distribution to retirement facilities, nursing homes, foster care homes, and libraries. If the video is as good as we hope to make it, we would also license it to other community groups who would kick back a small fee to the television facility here (if you make a profit, they require a certain amount anyway) and perhaps a small amount that would funnel to the community prep groups in our region. We'd want to keep the costs as low as possible, because the idea is to get it into people's hands. Those of us working on the video are doing so at NO fee and will not benefit financially in any way.

We feel confident that we will garner the endorsement of city/county officials because we have asked and they have agreed to write the scenario from which our script will emerge. HOORAH! We also hope that it will be a complimentary piece to the county's booklet and that it will serve well, those who prefer the visual over the print medium.

By the way, our community access TV has been running our Jim Lord and Rocky Cowie videos whenever they have a hole in their schedule so it has gotten a lot of coverage. If there are other videos that don't have copyright issues and that aren't "commercial" in nature, they would probably run them as well. If you know of anything that you would like them to consider, I can provide the contact name/address.

The first video will be general emergency preparation, but with a Y2K component. We hope to have a small print piece that will go with it (covering basic things), and that may be something that is already produced, or we may do something of our own. The second video would be with the goal of, "okay, you put into practice the things in Part One, now let's try these exercises; do these contingencies; shore up these areas." One of the lessons I've learned is you can't get people to do contingency planning if they don't know what they are planning for. And two, if you give them too much too fast (crawl before you walk, print before you write), they are paralyzed, give up, become complacent, or back-burner it. You have to provide the box, but then you can only fill it up incrementally.