Editor:

Santa Monica and the Westside got another “shake-up” call (“Earthquake strongly felt across Los Angeles,” March 17). This small jolt could be taken as one of many small earthquakes we Californians are so familiar with, and dismissed, or we might profitably consider it as a little nudge from Providence to get our ducks in a row with regard to disaster preparedness and emergency relief.

The Northridge and Loma Prieta quakes have given us ample precedent for integrating aviation into our contingency plans for the anticipated “big one” and, in fact, we did just that for many years.

Back in the 1980s when it was learned that Santa Monica, did indeed, have a plan to use the airport in the aftermath of a disaster, we were appalled to discover it was to use the airport as a morgue! Some concerned citizens and pilots, believing that there was an opportunity being missed, formed an Emergency Volunteer Air Corps or EVAC to make sure this vital asset would be available and ready when the time came. Working with the city fire department, a memorandum of understanding was executed detailing how local pilots and our airport would participate in a time of need. For instance, following the Loma Prieta earthquake more than 500 flights by volunteer pilots provided relief to isolated areas.

Unfortunately, this agreement was terminated by the city with a result that, once again, the airport and its potential for disaster mitigation, is not integrated into the city’s disaster response plan.

The Airport Commission, obsessed with trying to find ways to damage the airport and ultimately close it, has failed repeatedly to understand the role the airport could and should play in disaster relief. Why do they not realize that a failure to plan is like planning to fail?

Where could we look for a lifeline if the freeways and highways connecting the Los Angeles basin were cut or disrupted, as is expected? How would police and fire personnel living predominantly in outlying communities get into town to assume their duties?

All of this misguided fantasizing, both within the city government, and a vocal, but unrepresentative, group of homeowners, about turning a fully functioning transportation hub into a fiscally impossible bucolic wonderland betrays a fatal myopia. If you use your fire bucket for a planter, how are you going to put out a fire?

 

Bill Worden

Venice, Calif.

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