With the approval of the Harbor District Board Tuesday, the last delegate is in place for an upcoming trip to Rikuzentakata, Iwate, Japan. Harbor Master Charlie Helms will join 15 others to Rikuzentakata to learn and share information with its city officials regarding emergency response, planning, and take part in its official signing of the sister city agreement. A delegation from Rikuzentakata was here the week of April 16 for Crescent City’s Sister City signing celebration inside the cultural center.
The full delegation will consist of Del Norte County Supervisor Chair Chris Howard, his wife Lisa, Sheriff’s Commander Bill Steven, County Health and Human Service Director Heather Snow, County Legal Counsel Liz Cable, City Councilor and fire Battalion Chief Darrin Short, his wife Annette, Mayor Blake Inscore, his wife Lenea, DNHS Japan Club President Samantha Fuller, School District Human Resources Director Colleen Parker, Teacher Robyn Parker, Nancy Sander from the California Redwoods Art Association, City Finance Director Linda Leaver, Harbormaster Charlie Helms and City Manager Eric Wier.
From the city side, nearly every delegate has a purpose in going, related to emergency preparedness and response.
“We’ve got a pretty strong team,” said Wier, who has been the city’s public works director and is also a civil engineer. He said he has several roles in local emergency response and as city manager will be working alongside county CAO Jay Sarina in the event of an emergency.
What they are doing with their rebuilding projects is also interesting,” he said. “Their water treatment plant was completely destroyed. I want to know what they did and how they got water to people.”
He said the information will help inform public works of ways it can respond to a disaster and find temporary and permanent solutions to such issues.
Leaver is among the delegates.
“Linda has been instrumental in the Emergency Operations Center and attended a recent training in Emmitsburg (Maryland) with us,” Wier said. “We also want her to understand what’s happening in the field so she can handle the payments and reimbursements.”
Steven is also a fire engineer with Crescent City Fire and Rescue, as well as the public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office and the Office of Emergency Services.
Wier said having Steven along for the trip offers many benefits to the area in regard to emergency response, from the “boots on the ground” response to communicating with residents, officials and outside agencies.
Wier said part of that research will delve into how Rikuzentakata got information out following the 2011 tsunami.
Steven affirmed the many capacities in which he will serve for the city and county but also noted that he also wants to see how the program has grown from the idea he and his son John had in their living room in 2012.
“It was a good idea and I’m very proud that it’s become so much bigger,” he said.
Wier noted how visiting delegates from Japan have remarked about the eerie similarities of the two cities, and how each are so remote.
Wier noted that in his capacity as Fire Battalion Chief, Darrin Short will gather valuable information about the “boots on the ground” response to a tsunami or earthquake.
“He’ll be getting to hear what did and didn’t work,” Wier said, “as well as seeing the devastation and rebuilding.”
Wier noted the City of Rikuzentakata’s tsunami escape plan is very detailed, and is based around the amount of time it takes to get to certain safe areas on foot.
“Things like that are very valuable to us,” he said.
Department of Health and Human Service Director Heather Snow said she has not yet seen a full itinerary for the trip, but said she hopes to see Rikuzentakata’s practices for dealing with such issues as emergency homelessness and children’s emergency services.
Snow explained that in the event of a local disaster, such as a tsunami or earthquake, her department’s staff are state-mandated emergency responders.
“We’re part of the team that responds to those kind of emergencies,” she said, noting that her staff reports to Cindy Henderson, manager of the local Office of Emergency Services.
Snow said she’s looking forward to talking with Crescent City officials before the trip to get the itinerary and make clear plans based on those expectations.
The group departs June 15 and will return June 23 and the flight is expected to take about 16 hours.