Photo by Keeley Smith.
With the strongest El Niño on record expected to bring torrential rain and possible flooding to Southern California in the coming months, City officials shared specific preparations they have made and are making for this winter’s expected storms at a press conference today. Also announced was the rollout of a new mass emergency alert system for Long Beach residents, called "AlertLongBeach."
Those announcing the preparations in the "Situation Room" of the ironclad Emergency Operations Center near the Long Beach Airport included Mayor Robert Garcia, Director of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Communications Reggie Harrison, Fourth District Councilmember Daryl Supernaw and representatives from police and fire, among other city departments.
Garcia described the system as a new way to notify all residents of emergencies, even those without smart phones, since the city’s old alert system did not work as hoped during last summer’s power outages.
"If there’s major flooding, if there’s El Niño, because of the major lessons we learned in the Southern California Edison power outages, we did not have a direct way of reaching folks," said Mayor Garcia of the new system. "And we’re really hoping people will get engaged."
The city reconvened after the power outages to refine their disaster preparedness plans, improve their response infrastructure and roll out preparations for El Niño, which is expected to cause inclement weather—including record-setting downpours—in the coming months.
With El Niño looming in, Long Beach city officials today shared how the city is bracing itself, including the introduction of a new mass emergency alert system, "AlertLongBeach."Learn more: http://lbpo.st/1U0uUTEPosted by Long Beach Post on Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Officials encouraged city residents to "opt-in" to the alert, which is required to receive the notifications. By visiting www.longbeach.gov, residents can provide a cell phone number, email address or home and business address. Notifications will come in the form of a voice, text and email alert to residents affected, before, during and after an emergency.
"The beauty of AlertLongBeach is that you tailor the message for the incident," said Harrison. "It can be citywide or for a specific incident."
In fact, if an emergency is limited to a certain geographic location, only residents in that area will receive the alerts. However, as Harrison said, the system has the capacity to be used citywide if necessary.
Today marked the first day AlertLongBeach, which has been in the works since the end of the summer, went live. It was paid for with a three-year grant from the Department of Homeland Security, according to Harrison.
"It was selected because it also sends internal notifications to the staff," said Harrison, in addition to "external" notifications to city residents. The alert system is hosted by the same technology vendor that hosts Blackboard Learn—a learning management system used by Cal State Long Beach and Long Beach City College as well as many other educational entities—after an RFP process that saw 15 vendor submissions.
"We urge Long Beach residents to take serious precautions," said Harrison. "During the year, Long Beach receives 12 to 15 inches of rain. This year’s predictions are for Long Beach to receive 20 to 30 inches of rain, which is double what we would normally receive."
Highlights of the city’s El Niño preparations included opening the winter homeless shelter a month early—the shelter typically runs from December 1 through March; this year it opened on November 1. The city has also conducted roof repairs and gutter cleanings at buildings across all city departments, and urges residents to do the same.
The Mayor relayed an example of a mattress getting stuck in a storm drain in recent city history, which caused flooding. He encouraged all residents to report anything that would appear to compromise city infrastructure, cause residential hardship or disrupt traffic.
The Harbor Department has also zeroed in on attempts to "mitigate flooding" in and around the Port of Long Beach. After a surplus of rain occurred on September 15, the department surveyed conditions and created a consolidated map for alternate traffic routes in the case of flooding in high-risk areas.
Sand will be availabe at the San Francisco yard, fire stations seven, 11, 12 and 13, the Long Beach Lifeguard headquarters and the 72nd street lot, according to the Department of Public Works’ Art Cox. Sandbags will be available at all fire stations in the city.
For additional information on the AlertLongBeach system or current El Niño predictions and preparedness information, visit the City of Long Beach Disaster Preparedness website at www.longbeach.gov/disasterpreparedness.