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COPE Preparedness EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
“Promoting Emergency Preparedness through Proactive Community Outreach”
COPE Preparedness was founded in the Los Angeles, CA Harbor Area although it’s community model does not have geographic boundaries and can be utilized in other communities. It’s basis is promoting emergency preparedness through proactive community outreach accomplished through a variety of methods including the COPE Preparedness web page, community presentations, Newsletters and other programs.
The creation of COPE Preparedness was rooted in our national history. September 11th, 2001 marked a turning point in the American way of life. In a single day terrorists shattered our false perception of invulnerability. The Indonesia tsunami caught thousands of people off guard; no one knew the danger racing through the ocean depths until it was too late to act. Hurricane Katrina proved that there are some disasters that even the entire resources of the United States government are not equipped to handle. The wake of this disaster left New Orleans in shambles. While most of Los Angeles was sleeping at 4:30 am, on January 17, 1994, the Northridge earthquake began its devastating torrent through the southland. Buildings, roads, bridges, and overpasses were destroyed, and countless lives were spared only because of the early morning hours of relative inactivity. Many Harbor Area residents clearly remember December 17, 1976 when the 60,000-ton supertanker S.S. Sansinena exploded in the Port of Los Angeles. Glass was shattered in homes and businesses throughout the Peninsula and widespread damage was reported.
The Port of Los Angeles is the busiest port in the United States by container volume and the Harbor Area is exceptionally vulnerable to a range of hazards including earthquakes, terrorist attacks, tsunamis and toxic explosions. Disasters occur without warning, and thousands of lives are wiped out in minutes. Survival is a matter of being prepared, not just when disaster strikes but also through the terrible aftermath.
It is these realities that initiated the formation of the Committee on Port Safety and Security (COPSS) in October of 2004. COPSS was founded by Lonna Calhoun, an elected board member of the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council, and was initially formulated as an ad hoc Neighborhood Council committee, as part of the Los Angeles City government body. The initial mission of COPSS was to promote the safety and security of community stakeholders, defined as; everyone who lives, works, owns property, or worships in the Harbor Area, including San Pedro, Wilmington, and Harbor City. Subsequently, COPSS united six Harbor Area Neighborhood Councils (Central San Pedro, Coastal San Pedro, Northwest San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City and Harbor Gateway South Neighborhood Councils) through voted upon resolutions, and integrated the first responder agencies, local, state, and federal elected officials, and stakeholders.
In June of 2006, COPSS formed a taskforce to identify the viability of forming a non-profit corporation to meet this goal. The taskforce and the COPSS committee unanimously agreed upon moving forward to create a tax-exempt corporation. This new entity was formed as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit in 2006 and named Community Outreach Promoting Emergency (COPE) Preparedness.
COPE Preparedness conducts regular quarterly community forums featuring educational information and speakers. COPE Preparedness has built an email distribution list of over 5000 concerned harbor area community leaders and stakeholders. COPE Preparedness regularly communicates issues of emergency management to the community through its web site, Newsletters and email notifications.
COPE Preparedness has established a direct and positive relationship with the first responder agencies working on evacuation and emergency preparedness for the Harbor Area. COPE Preparedness is fully aligned and working with the Area Maritime Security Committee (AMSC), a nationally recognized model tasked with organizing the efforts of emergency response organizations. COPE Preparedness has a voting position on the AMSC, Shoreside Stakeholder Sub-Committee representing the Los Angeles Community. COPE Preparedness committee meetings are regularly attended by representatives from the Port of Los Angeles (POLA) Homeland Security Division, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), Port Police, Los Angeles City Fire Department (LAFD), United States Coast Guard (USCG), Neighborhood Council representatives, and city, state, and federal elected officials. COPE Preparedness has been featured on KCET, Life and Times, and COMCAST “Around Los Angeles”.
COPE Preparedness is recognized as the voice of the Harbor Area on issues of stakeholder emergency preparedness in conjunction and support of local emergency management efforts. The COPE Preparedness website distributes updated information on the aforementioned issues, progress towards COPE Preparedness goals and initiatives, and important links to first responders and organizations involved in emergency management. COPE Preparedness has achieved an extraordinary level of support and success thanks to dedicated involvement from committee members and first responder organizations. In September 2008, COPE Preparedness partnered with the City of Los Angeles to promote an Emergency Fair that drew over 2000 participants. COPE Preparedness raised funds then donated over $17,000 to the Fair’s success giving away over $13,000 worth of emergency supplies to the community. COPE Preparedness was represented by Lonna Calhoun as an ambassador for the Great California ShakeOut which was the largest earthquake drill in U.S history in November 2008. Lonna as President of COPE Preparedness also represented Janice Hahn and the 15th District at the International ShakeOut Conference.
COPE Preparedness organized a multi agency and wide based community four phase summit tiled the “Community Continuity”. The four phases or events will engage community NPO’s, Ports and labor, private and public schools, chambers, industry, refineries, faith-based, hospitals, homeowner associations and other NGO’s in sharing individual emergency plans and formulating the basis for a written community emergency operating plan to be completed by January 2010.
COPE Preparedness has identified significant need in the Harbor Area for a comprehensive disaster preparedness outreach program. Currently COPE Preparedness is the only community based organization actively involved in emergency management.
COPE Preparedness has accomplished a lot but much more needs to be done!
Research to date has identified the following facts:
- The general public is not prepared to fulfill what all authorities claim would be a requirement in the case of a severe crisis i.e.; take care of themselves and shelter in place for from 72 hours to three weeks;
- At this time a fully coordinated community emergency/evacuation is still in the planning stages. First responders, port industry and government officials have independent plans but they have not been fully coordinated into a comprehensive community plan. COPE Preparedness should maintain a proactive force in moving towards the completion of this plan;
- At this time there is still need for a fully coordinated communication plan to clarify specific rolls within first responder organizations as to the line of communication and command;
- There is not a fully operable and reliable communication system for emergency/evacuation notification to the community;
- A large underserved portion of the community is unable to afford basic emergency kits and emergency preparation outreach to low-income families is almost non-existent;
- First Responder agencies are under funded and unable to fully achieve identified community outreach goals;
- Community First Responder organizations are not fully coordinated with a comprehensive approach to community outreach;
- The community is at risk for and are not adequately prepared for potential hazards such as a terrorist attack, earthquakes, tsunami’s, explosions, and/or a toxic environmental emergencies;
- Evacuation of this community has severe challenges and we must be prepared to survive while we shelter in place if necessary;
- Each and every one of us has a personal responsibility for our own safety and individual emergency preparedness, since we are only as strong as our weakest link;
- The community must mobilize and work together now to be adequately prepared for emergencies, and
- Many lives could depend on our actions of today.
In July of 2008 an audit conducted by Laura Chick, City of Los Angeles Controller validated the findings of COPE Preparedness in a document titled: Performance Audit of the City of Los Angeles Emergency Planning Efforts and Citywide Disaster Preparedness. This audit confirmed the importance of the work and mission of COPE Preparedness. http://www.lacity.org/ctr/audits/LAEMFinal070714.pdf
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