PHOENIX - Evacuation procedures will be under a spotlight as state officials review Arizona's emergency response plan in the wake of Gulf Coast hurricanes.
Gov. Janet Napolitano and directors of 15 state departments and offices were scheduled to meet behind closed doors Friday for the first of what is expected to be a series of meetings to review and update the state's Emergency Response and Recovery Plan.
The 464-page plan outlines the steps that the state, local governments and other organizations such as the American Red Cross would take in response to a host of potential natural and human-caused disasters.
The plan last underwent a major update in 2003.
Like other governors who expressed unease after Katrina revealed disarray in relief efforts, Napolitano ordered a review of the state's emergency plan.
"I don't want to ever have that happen in Arizona," Napolitano said earlier this month regarding New Orlean's troubles with nursing home residents and other people who lacked the means to evacuate.
Now, Houston's difficulty with evacuation in advance of Hurricane Rita - northbound motorists were stalled for hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the interstate - is a concern that Arizona officials take into consideration during the review, Napolitano spokeswoman Jeanine L'Ecuyer said.
Napolitano has singled out several areas for special attention: past assumptions about reliance on the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the possibility of large number of Californians fleeing to Arizona.
Arizona set up shelters with capacities of 1,100 and 800, respectively, in Phoenix and Tucson for Katrina evacuees, but only ended up with approximately 600 people in Phoenix and 80 in Tucson.
"The fact that we were able to stand up the operation so quickly is evidence that Arizona is extraordinarily well prepared," L'Ecuyer said. "The obvious question is what if we have to double that number, to triple that number."
Frank Navarrete, Napolitano's homeland security director and also director of the state Division of Emergency Management, expressed confidence that shelter could be found statewide for "a couple of hundred thousand" California evacuees.
Nevertheless, Katrina was "a wake-up call" to look at all of the plan, Navarrete said.
Arizona's own evacuation plans need a review, particularly in the Phoenix area, because of population growth and changes in the freeway system, Navarrete said.
The current plan mostly is organized by types of response and recovery efforts, not specific emergency scenarios. For example, the need to evacuate residents and then feed and shelter them somewhere else could apply to a range of disasters.
For each function, a primary agency is designated to lead the response and recovery work. Other state and local agencies, along with private organizations such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army, would then assist.
The state regularly holds drills to practice its emergency response system to work out bug and familiarize emergency personnel and public officials who would have to implement it, said Cam Hunter, Office of Homeland Security spokeswoman.
This year, for example, an exercise is planned in the Casa Grande area to test parts of the plan dealing with a weapon of mass destruction, she said.
"The last thing you want to do is have a plan that you have to pull off a shelf," Hunter said. "You have to exercise it."
Tasks listed in emergency plan
Examples of tasks outlined in Arizona's emergency response plan:
- Dealing with large numbers of dead bodies.
- Designating places to preposition personnel and equipment near a trouble zone.
- Detecting and addressing high stress among emergency responders and the general population.
- Disposing of debris.
- Encouraging contributions of money rather than food or clothing.
- Implementing mutual aid agreements between governments.
- Imposing rations or conservation edicts for critical fuel supplies.
- Listing airports to handle incoming relief flights, including those using Air Force heavy transports.
- Making plans based on assumptions that an emergency could be big enough to overwhelm local authorities capabilities.
- Planning evacuations.
- Procuring medical supplies and other essential items for local or national sources.
- Providing food, shelter and medical care for large numbers of displaced people.
- Providing law enforcement.
- Releasing emergency information through the news media.
- Specifying what levels of government should make disaster declarations to trigger emergency response efforts.
- Taking evacuees' pets into consideration in evacuation and shelter plans.
Possible emergency situations cited in Arizona's Emergency Response and Recovery Plan include:
- Catastrophic weather, including hurricanes and tornadoes.
- Damage to transportation systems.
- Flooding and dam failure.
- Flu pandemic.
- Foreign animal disease.
- Hazardous material releases.
- Nuclear plant emergency.
- Riots and other civil disturbances.
- Uncontrolled fires.
- Urban searches and rescues.
- Wildland fire.
Invitees to a Friday meeting called by Gov. Janet Napolitano to review Arizona's emergency plan:
John Blackburn, Jr., Arizona Criminal Justice Commission executive director.
Victor Mendez, Department of Transportation director.
Aubrey Godwin, Arizona Radiation Regulatory Agency director.
David Berns, Department of Economic Security director.
Stephen Owens, Department of Environmental Quality director.
Donald Butler, Department of Agriculture director.
Mark Winkleman, state land commissioner.
Terry Goddard, attorney general.
Jerry Oliver, Department of Administration acting director.
Lisa Glow, Gov.'s Office for Children, Youth & Families director.
Roger Vanderpool, Arizona Department of Public Safety director.
Frank Navarrete, director of the Office of Homeland Security and the Division of Emergency Management
Chris Cummiskey, Gov.'s Office of Information Technology Agency director.
Susan Gerard, Department of Health Services director.
Maj. Gen. David Rataczak, Department of Emergency & Military Affairs adjutant general.
Dennis Burke, chief of staff for policy.
Alan Stephens, chief of staff for operations.
Suzie Barr, law enforcement liaison and legislative affairs.
Diane Saunders, director of cabinet affairs and special projects.
Lou Trammell, Division of Emergency Management deputy director.
Jan Kimmell, Division of Emergency Management assistant director.
Cam Hunter, Office of Homeland Security.
Susan Dzbanko, Office of Homeland Security.
SOURCE: Gov.'s office.