Auditors find faults in Dallas emergency readiness

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on September 16, 2013 at 5:25 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 17 at 9:32 AM

DALLAS — Whether from floods, fire, or flu, an audit of emergency operations at Dallas City Hall shows serious failings when it comes to preparedness.

According to auditors, the city fails to satisfy six of 10 management functions FEMA considers essential during a significant emergency event.

Auditors said Dallas is missing key information, including:

  • phone numbers
  • vital records agreements with other cities
  • vendors Dallas might need in an emergency
  • alternate locations where hard or electronic data is stored and can be accessed

There is also no protection of vital records, pass codes and access codes, and no process to contact and account for all staff — such as a toll-free phone number.

"While we agree that we have deficiencies in our COOP (Continuity of Operations) plan, it is not to a point that it's critical that we don't think that we could function if something had to happen," said Rocky Vaz, the city's director of emergency management.

Vaz said each department does have individual emergency plans.

"Just because a COOP plan does not meet federal guidance on how we do each step doesn't mean that we don't have a plan," he said. "We do have a plan; it just doesn't meet the federal guidelines."

If there were an emergency, departments would meet in a room in the basement of City Hall to coordinate an overall strategy.

That's where they'll be in November for the 50-year observance of the Kennedy assassination — just in case.

If there is an emergency that shuts down City Hall, an alternate location has already been equipped, and is functional.

Rocky Vaz admitted there is room for improvement, and said he plans to hire a contractor within six months to address deficiencies.

Two years ago, the City of Dallas had no plan, Vaz said. And having a deficient plan has no impact on state or federal assistance if there is an emergency.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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