Archive for Thursday, October 26, 2000

Flood drill shows KC its weaknesses

Communication at root of city’s problem, emergency management director says

October 26, 2000


— The city can predict floods, but it needs to do a better job of communicating critical information when they occur, the Kansas City emergency management director says.

In a flood drill earlier this month, crews met their goals for responding, but emergency manager Mike Karl said more needed to be done to prevent the loss of lives that accompanied the Oct. 4, 1998, flood of Brush Creek.

During the Oct. 3 flood drill, the city's flash-flood team responded to scripted information provided by the National Weather Service that called for swollen waterways at three locations: Turkey Creek, Brush Creek and the Blue River.

In a memo released this week, Karl said the drill indicated emergency crews could predict when and where dangerous flooding would occur.

But he said the city needed to do a better job of communicating critical information. The city should also explore using live video technology, the World Wide Web, area computer networks and low-tech strategies to combat deadly flash floods, he said.

"In a perfect world," Karl said, "these recommendations will allow critical decision-making to occur more rapidly based on better information."

In the memo to City Manager Bob Collins, Karl wrote that he hoped to name a committee to investigate his recommendations by early December.

Karl said the recommendations could cost $100,000, a one-time expense that would come out of the city's 2002 budget.

During this month's exercise, Karl's team plotted flood data from 1977, 1998 and last year to predict when Brush Creek would flood at Ward Parkway. But in a real flood, Karl said, the command center needs to be able to monitor up to two dozen charts electronically.

Karl also suggested that crews not wait until a potential flood approached disaster proportions before making an emergency declaration.

He also said that while the city could monitor the Metropolitan Emergency Radio System, there was no way to monitor the National Weather Service. During the exercise, the door to the communications room was closed to control sound, and two warning messages were missed, Karl said.

And he said teams erecting barricades had problems communicating with the city's dispatch center and other crews. There was an unusual amount of static and interference, Karl said. Officials were forced to use personal cellular phones to communicate.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.