Investigator: Local disaster plan questioned

10:42 PM, Jun 5, 2012   |    comments
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NORTHEAST OHIO -- Disasters happen all the time, from tsunamis and earthquakes to terrorist attacks, along with tornadoes and blizzards and heat waves.

But how local governments handle such disasters is key to the safety and well being of their citizens. A recent federal report indicates that many urban areas have inadequate plans for dealing with nuclear incidents, and they don't mean from power plant leaks.

The "American people face no greater or urgent danger than a terrorist attack from a nuclear weapon," the January report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said, and Cleveland has inadequate planning for such an event.

"Cleveland ... indicated in its survey responses that they did have planning and provided supporting documentation; however, once [it was reviewed] the supporting documentation they determined [Cleveland] did not address public health planning specific to radiological/nuclear incidents," the report said.

But local officials claim they are ready. Cuyahoga County Council Executive Ed FitzGerald says "about 80 percent of what you'd do in  [radiological/nuclear incidents] is similar to what you would do with other types of natural disasters. Twenty percent of the response might be different."

FitzGerald said a new disaster response plan has been developed by the county and will be presented to council later this month. However, don't expect to see any specific details. FitzGerald said specifics on public health response, for example, will not be made public, citing security issues.

The main point of any disaster response planning is to come up with a plan to respond to incidents that may have never occur. And it is that uncertainty that makes the process very difficult.

Cleveland Councilman Matt Zone, who serves on the council's public safety committee, said he's not sure if Cleveland even has a plan to respond specifically to a radiation or nuclear incident. "I don't know, quite frankly, if we are ready," he said.

Cuyahoga County Council member Dave Greenspan said the recent attempt to blow up the Route 82 bridge in Brecksville was a wake up call to local officials in planning. "We had an unfortunate situation with the Route 82 bridge incident, so it gives me some concern," Greenspan said.

"But we have to be prepared for many different types of disasters, but hopefully they will be events that will never take place," he said.


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