Thursday, January 18, 2007

City wants Downtown blueprint for disaster. Other, better ideas offered below.

The city wants, err, ... this citizen wants no such blueprint. Naysayers say it will cost nearly $600,000 when the net result is a best-practice strategy of "run like hell."
From Paddle-kayak
City wants Downtown blueprint for disaster - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Pittsburgh officials must specifically tailor their evacuation plans for Downtown to avoid the confusion that has accompanied past emergencies, the city's top emergency coordinators said Wednesday.
I would do much better than this for much less.

How about if we take the basement of the city county building an use it for storage of:
  • Twenty thousands of water bottles, empty.

  • Suitable inventory of water buffalos to fill bottles when and if needed.

  • 5,000 bikes with helmets and handlebar baskets
  • From Paddle-kayak

  • 3,000 canoes with paddles and lifejackets.
  • From Paddle-kayak

  • A dozen bells on wheels. Every toy box needs noise makers.

  • Hear the bell being suggested.
    My plan costs $0 for the blueprint, but it is priceless. Furthermore, the plan that has a blueprint cost of nearly $600,000 has no scope of work that is understood. Their plan might still call for all the above.

    Bonus package: I hear that the Eastern Mountain Sports store in Ross Park Mall is holding a going out of business sale. Perhaps the order of necessary equipment can be purchased at that sale.


    Anonymous said...

    Full article:
    Jeremy Boren
    Thursday, January 18, 2007

    Pittsburgh officials must specifically tailor their evacuation plans for Downtown to avoid the confusion that has accompanied past emergencies, the city's top emergency coordinators said Wednesday.

    Local and regional emergency management experts have chosen engineering firm Michael J. Baker Corp. to conduct a yearlong analysis of how to evacuate people from Downtown during a major disaster, said city Fire Chief Michael Huss, Pittsburgh's emergency management director.

    "We have emergency plans for getting people out of the buildings," Huss said. "What Michael Baker is going to provide is models and recommendations for getting people out of Downtown."

    Baker would be expected to improve on ideas such as moving people with help from Port Authority of Allegheny County buses and the Gateway Clipper fleet.

    Deputy Emergency Management Director Ray DeMichiei said Pittsburgh has never had an evacuation plan specifically designed for Downtown, where about 150,000 people live and work on a typical workday.

    "What we have now are general rules on how to execute an evacuation plan anywhere," DeMichiei said.

    Baker would use sophisticated computer models -- based on real-world research -- to tell emergency officials how traffic and people would flow during an evacuation.

    Pittsburgh is following the lead of many other U.S. cities, which are fine-tuning their evacuation responses in the wake of Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans.

    In a preliminary 3-1 vote yesterday, City Council approved paying Moon-based Baker $589,300 from a federal U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant. A final vote is scheduled for Tuesday. Two council members were absent for yesterday's vote, and three abstained.

    "People need to realize that the reason we need to do this isn't for the next 9/11, it could be for the next 'Big Stink,' " Councilman Bill Peduto said, referring to a noxious odor that hit Downtown in 1998. City and county emergency responders were confused over who had jurisdiction to evacuate workers, some of whom were sickened by the smell.

    On Sept. 11, 2001, confusion plagued Downtown again as then-Mayor Tom Murphy and then-Allegheny County Chief Executive Jim Roddey grappled over who had the authority to evacuate Downtown in case of a pending terrorist attack.

    The two events pushed the city in 2002 to establish a plan to evacuate Downtown buildings. It included plans for dealing with gas attacks, hazardous materials releases and natural disasters. In 2005, the city and county 911 systems were merged.

    David Higie, a Baker spokesman, said the firm has developed similar evacuation plans for other municipalities, but he declined to name them or elaborate on what the company would do for Pittsburgh until City Council signs off.

    Jeremy Boren can be reached at or (412) 765-2312.

    Rob said...


    As a former City paramedic crew-chief and member of the HazMat team, I'm glad you weren't voting on this proposal.

    Go learn about the topic and come back when you have some understanding of the issues involved.

    Mark Rauterkus said...

    Rob, you are clueless on this too. There is no plan. There is no blueprint. There is only spending.

    Does spending make you smart?

    Of course not.

    The legislation was a no-bid contract.

    The legislation had NO SCOPE OF SERVICE.

    The legislation called for the mayor and the director of public safety to guide this blueprint -- but -- there is no director of public safety in the city. None. That was the flap with Dennis R. back in August.

    I guess public safety isn't an issue in the city as we had to rush to appoint a director right after Luke was sworn in -- but -- now it isn't even on the rader. Until, they want to spend money that they don't have.

    So, you were part of the HazMat team -- and there wasn't a blueprint for downtown? Were you working with your pants down?

    Of course not.

    The problem.... the proposal isn't a proposal at all. Just as your objection isn't really an objection other than a pointer to your past experience.

    Rob said...


    I'm having a bad year so far. I don't have the energy to educate you on this, and frankly I'm too disgusted. That's why the first post was so short.

    Yes, there's a problem with the director of public safety. No, I don't think this should have been a no-bid contract. But the City is long overdue for a plan.

    We did have a plan for downtown: Pray we never need such a plan, because if we did, we'd be doing the old "rectal reach" as the mechanical engineers at CMU would say.

    What plans might exist were gedanken experiments with no empirical backing. All of them include the concept of triage: those people you can save without effort, those you can save with what resources you've got, and those you give up on. Proper plans can greatly reduce the number of people you write off.

    The 1998 "big stink" went better than most of us expected, and we all know what a cluster frack that was. Pick a slightly different chemical, and that incident would have been a cautionary tale to make FEMA's New Orleans response look good in comparison.

    The lack of preparedness was so bad, it became a joke, an "unthinkable" that could never happen: a passenger jet into the U.S. Steel building. I don't know why, but somehow that joke doesn't seem funny anymore.

    And, for the record, even at that level of unpreparedness, Pittsburgh is still better off than most cities its size. At least we had the yearly disasters of the marathon and Great Race under our belts. But that training mostly focused on the response once the evacuation had been accomplished.

    I mentioned my experience for a reason. I doubt you remember my name from our previous conversations. I was the guy who was arguing that the loss of the marathon was harmful to public safety preparedness. I was giving you a clue that in the past, when we've discussed public safety, you eventually realized I had some experience that trumped your lack of knowledge in the matter. You ran the Great Race and noticed many of the things I pointed out, from the EMS presence to the Amateur Radio response.

    Some time, if you want to have fun, get a copy of the Government's Emergency Response Guidebook and check out the placards on the train cars as the wheels scream while they pass over Penn and Liberty. You can read the initial evacuation distances. A map to look at how much of downtown would be affected might be useful.

    While you're doing that, ask yourself if there might be some things passing through Pittsburgh by truck or train unplacarded to avoid "problems." Ask yourself why the government would deliberately violate its own regulations.

    Mark Rauterkus said...

    Rob. I know who you (as a web netizen) are and I expected to hear from you this week. Really.

    I was thinking of you when I gave the interview about the B.M.I. letter and schools. That's the fat letter article.

    Sorry you have had a bad year.

    The bad things about the legislation that we agree upon are the worst things -- no bid contracts and lack of a plan about a plan to city council. The administration shouldn't put a $600,000 bill onto the table of city council and not provide any terms or scope of service.

    No need to re-hash.

    I am not suprised that government would deliberately violate its own regulations. They can't put forth decent legislation. They can't put forth decent evacuation plans. They need to be watched.

    Thanks for sounding off.