Archive for Thursday, November 17, 2005

Preparing for disaster

Police chief: Basehor’s new plan takes practical approach

November 17, 2005

Flip through the channels and on any given day, at any given minute, you'll stumble upon various depictions of a doomsday scenario.

On HBO, there's "Last Best Chance" and just down the dial on Showtime, "Sleeper Cell," two programs waxing on the looming threat of terrorism. On regular TV, CBS interrupts coverage of Sunday football with commercials shilling for "Category 7: The End of the World," a movie about city-devouring disasters.

In this post-Katrina age, imagining a fictional Revelations-like catastrophe seems not only vogue, but downright chic.

At Basehor City Hall, the person being paid to hope for the best, but expect the worst is Police Chief Terry Horner, whom the city council directed to update its emergency management plan immediately following the fallout from the natural disaster that struck the Gulf Coast earlier this year.

In June, after having witnessed Katrina's wrath from afar, council members sought to revise the city's emergency management plan, which was developed in the 1970s. There was some question among city officials as to whether the emergency management plan had seen a major revision since it was first instituted.

Horner said the city's revised emergency management plan doesn't delve deep into nightmare scenarios such as a terrorist attack or radiological spill, but given the city's proximity to military bases, "you almost can't rule something like that out."

It does give attention to improbable scenarios such as an earthquake, flood or drought, but Horner said the plan deals more seriously with situations that are more likely for Basehor.

With Kansas ranking in the top 10 in the country for most tornadoes per year, Horner said the city's new plan will deal more with "The Wizard of Oz" than "Armageddon."

"It's practical," the police chief said. "It's modified to fit the high risks we have here ... tornadoes, severe storms, power outages. It isn't anything you're not going to see anyplace else."

While the plan is tailored to fit Basehor, it is based on a plan developed for the city of Lansing. Horner said some situations that could happen in Lansing aren't likely in Basehor, so those sections have been trimmed from the Basehor's version.

"There's been a few modifications we've made," Horner said.

The revised plan is still a work in progress. Earlier this month Horner met with Leavenworth County emergency management director Chuck Magaha, a Basehor resident and Fairmount Township firefighter, to discuss plan revisions.

Horner said a rough draft of the plan would be distributed to city council members late this week and that a vote on the proposed new plan could take place before the end of the year.

"Hopefully, we'll have some holiday reading for the council and once the rough draft comes back and we've made recommendations and changes we'll put it up for a vote," he said.

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