Town Talk: What happens in a natural disaster? - Tucson Local Media: Columns

Town Talk: What happens in a natural disaster?

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Curt Woody

Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 4:00 am

Cross community and municipality collaboration is key to regional economic development. It’s a difficult concept when each community is trying to develop and protect its own economic base.

So what happens when there is a major natural disaster? Cities and towns have completed exercises on disaster planning and recovery as it pertains to human capital and infrastructure. But what have they done to prepare their businesses to recover from the economics of a disaster?

The Pinal County Office of Emergency Management is developing an economic preparedness exercise to address this issue. Pinal County is inviting between 120 and 150 private and public participants, including some from the Town of Marana, to an all-day tabletop exercise Sept. 24. The session places an emphasis on the roles of local, county, state, non-governmental organizations and private sector entities that have economic and community responsibilities in preparing for, responding to and recovering from a catastrophe.

The scenario will be based on the 1983 flood event from tropical storm Octave. During a 10-day period of torrential rains, more than 10,000 Arizonans were left homeless. Transportation systems between Tucson, Phoenix and Yuma were closed, stranding residents and shutting down commerce. State-wide damage was estimated at $1 billion in today’s dollars. The growth and development that have taken place in the past 20 years would add significantly to that economic devastation.

Participants will be led through three planning modules: preparedness, response and recovery. The purpose is to provide them with an opportunity to evaluate current response concepts, procedures and capabilities for a disaster that impacts the economy and private sectors.

Various topics such as keeping businesses open and operating when their facilities no longer exist, access to low-interest loans and available insurance products even if you are not in the floodplain will be discussed. Input from the private sector on its needs and expectations will be valuable in crafting a plan that mitigates many of the challenges in an economic disaster recovery.

While each community has its own economic development practices and goals, all of Southern Arizona needs to work together to ensure quick recovery from a natural disaster. Our economic security is at stake and exercises such as this one will go a long way toward ensuring that our region is prepared.

(Editor’s Note: Curt Woody is the Town of Marana’s Economic Development and Strategic Initiatives Manager.)

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