Letter to the Editor

Editor's Note: The following message from Jim Martin, APWA President in 1983-84, was sent to President Larry Frevert, Emergency Management Committee Chair Teresa Scott, the editor of the APWA Reporter, and several other members. President Frevert contacted Past President Martin and indicated that he plans to discuss this issue with all of the Technical Committees this spring during their face-to-face meetings in Kansas City, and will ask the committees to consider the issue in their work plans.

  Jim Martin

Having been very much involved in emergency management activities for APWA for a number of years, I greatly appreciated the January 2008 issue of the Reporter with its emphasis on that subject. The articles and your lead editorial were very good.

However, there is a major aspect of public works in emergency management which didn't seem to be covered, something which the Association should be emphasizing to FEMA and its other partners in EM, and that is our role in the recovery phase. While the cleanup from disasters was mentioned, our lead role in restoration of damaged infrastructure and other facilities was not, or at least was not sufficiently emphasized.

In my own presentations on PW emergency management, I point out that post-event rehabilitation, repair, and replacement of facilities is almost entirely a public works responsibility, one which takes months to years (and often more) to complete. For example, the replacement of the Cypress Viaduct in Oakland, California, after the Loma Prieta earthquake took Caltrans about 10 years (for environmental, political, financial, and other reasons).

And in many cases, facility restoration represents a very large part of the total cost of the disaster, having little to do with the other "first responders" who seem to get most of the public and legislative attention.

I recommend that the Emergency Management Committee discuss further this aspect of PW in emergency management, and how this role could be more effectively brought to the attention of other groups and agencies involved in EM.

And we need to emphasize this responsibility to our own members even more strongly. Many likely do not recognize how their own units can be operationally impacted for a long time after an event, and how important it is for them to be ready for that aspect of recovery. This is an area where any undue delay or inaction on PW's part will soon get the attention of legislators, the media, and the general public.

Jim Martin
APWA Past President