Planning for the worst

They spend hours each month preparing for what they hope will never happen — a disaster.

Comprised of volunteers culled from almost every public and government sector in Roosevelt and Curry counties, Local Emergency Planning Committees promote emergency planning, preparedness and public awareness in the case of a natural or manmade disaster.

National Weather Service Doppler Weather Radar image

A composite reflectivity image of a large storm just north of Clovis on May 25 that produced golf-ball size hail.

On Wednesday, Roosevelt County Emergency Management Director Keith Wattenberger conducted an emergency preparedness drill at the Portales Police Department.

Dispatchers went through a drill simulating emergency weather situations, such as severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, funnel clouds and hailstorms.

The drill featured a group of evaluators that included Wattenberger, director of engineering at KENW-TV Jeff Burmeister, Fire Management Officer for Glacier Technologies Kelly Gregg, and a host of others who work or have worked in emergency situations.

"Between all of the evaluators, there is over 150 years of experience," Wattenberger said.

The drill began with simulated severe weather calls sent over the dispatch radio. The communications division began determining the severity of the weather before notifying nearly every sector of the city and county.

Dispatch supervisor Mike Lacer oversaw three pairs of dispatchers as they updated local and state law enforcement, radio and television stations, local schools, local government, and other entities on the severity of the weather.

Most of the drill was focused on how to react in the event of a tornado, which is the most likely severe weather situation Portales would experience.

CMI correspondent: Eric Norwood Jr.

Portales police dispatcher Shaun Banther takes a call during a emergency management drill Wednesday in Portales.

Emergency weather sirens were also tested.

Lessons learned from the 2007 tornado that tore through Roosevelt and Curry counties were many, according to Curry County Emergency Management Director Ken De Los Santos. Tops among them have been efforts to upgrade communications systems and working to provided backup systems for emergency power.

In Clovis, warning sirens placed around the city are dedicated to tornado alerts only. The city and county are also part of an emergency alert system that interrupts cable, television and radio programming when a storm is threatening.

Weather information is posted to the city's website and De Los Santos and his crew have also developed text and email alerts available to anyone requesting them.

Roosevelt County has a similar system in place.

"We have lots of ways to notify," De Los Santos said, "and the big thing is … the thing we tell people is when you get up in the morning, turn on the television or radio first thing and find out what's going on."

The Curry County Emergency Management office also engages in training exercises for its staff and other entities around the county. They recently held an exercise for Clovis Community College employees, and have scheduled exercises this year with the Clovis Airport and Clovis Christian School. They consist on tabletop discussions as wells as hands-on emergency preparedness training.

F2 (wind speeds greater than 113 mph) tornadoes in Curry County:

  • June 10, 1932
  • Sept. 17, 1944
  • May 24, 1957
  • June 11, 1964
  • March 23, 2007

Source: Clovis and Curry County Emergency Planning Director Ken De Los Santos

Shelter-in-Place Fact Sheet

A sudden emergency involving chemicals, or hazardous materials, can force emergency officials to ask you to take immediate action to protect yourselves and your families. Sheltering-in-place means protecting yourself where you are and remaining in place until given further instructions or emergency officials give the all clear. If you are asked to shelter-in-place, do the following:

  • Remain calm.
  • Go inside if you are outdoors.
  • Do not call 911 unless you are reporting an immediate life-threatening situation.
  • Children in schools or day care centers will take shelter where they are located and will stay indoors.
  • Close all windows and doors. Tape cracks for extra protection.
  • Close all vents on cooling, heating or ventilating systems.
  • Cover cracks under doors with damp towels.
  • If you have a fireplace, put out the fire and close the damper.
  • Tape cracks and other openings such as electrical outlets and cable outlets.
  • Move to an interior room or hallway with no windows or doors to the outside.
  • Keep pets indoors.
  • Listen carefully to a portable radio for instructions from emergency officials.
  • If you are in a car, close windows and vents.
  • Don't come out unless told to do so by radio, TV, news, or emergency officials

Source: Curry County Emergency Planning Committee website

Evacuation fact sheet

A sudden emergency involving chemicals, or hazardous materials, can force emergency officials to ask you to take immediate action to protect yourselves and your families. Evacuating means leaving the area that is affected by the potential hazard. Sometimes a chemical accident, such as an overturned tanker truck, will force people from their homes for health and safety reasons. If you are asked to evacuate, do the following:

  • Remain calm.
  • Listen carefully to the instructions you are given and be sure you are in an area that is being evacuated.
  • If told to evacuate, do so!
  • Do not use the phone except to dial 911 in a life-threatening situation.
  • Take your "Disaster Supplies Kit" with you.
  • DO NOT go to your children's school. If they are in the evacuation area they will be taken care of. They will probably be gone by the time you get there.
  • Close and lock windows and doors.
  • Turn off all fans, heating and cooling units.
  • Bring pets indoors and leave food and water for them. Remember, pets ARE NOT allowed in emergency shelters!
  • Keep vehicle windows and vents closed while evacuating.
  • Follow instructions of emergency personnel along evacuation routes.
  • Stay tuned to radio and television for further instructions from emergency officials.

Source: Curry County Emergency Planning Committee website

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