City prepares for emergencies

Tony Parra

Emergency alert sirens and spreading the news via media outlets are two top priorities for local officials if a tornado swept through the Portales vicinity.
Planning for a tornado, flood or any other emergencies situations were topics of discussion at an emergency planning meeting on Thursday at the Portales city hall.
At the meeting approximately 20 participants — including city and county officials — listened in on a two-hour presentation by Emergency Management Coordinator Lloyd Seefeld.
“I think it went pretty good,” Seefeld said about his power-point presentation. “There was quite a lot of interest on the matter. The next step is to have drill activities with communities…”
Officials discussed several scenarios during severe weather and who would provide information to media outlets that would then transmit the information to the public.
There have been 399 tornadoes in the state of New Mexico in the last 25 years, and the state is ranked 28 in the United States in tornado frequency, according to Seefeld.
But planning for emergencies doesn’t only involve severe weather situations.
For example, Seefeld described a scenario in which a semi carrying hazardous chemicals rolled over on a highway outside of the city limits. Officials said Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Department officers would respond first and Portales police officers would provide backup support.
The Portales Police Department Communications Supervisor Shana Hernandez said she would contact the Hazmat response vehicle. The Hazmat response unit is the unit that deals with hazardous materials when there is a spill or leakage.
Seefeld added another dilemma to the situation when he talked about a tornado warning in Floyd, heading towards Portales.
“We would contact the radio stations, state police to warn people,” Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry explained. “If it is within 10 miles of Portales then the sirens would go off to warn the people.”
Seefeld also brought up an additional situation in which the tornado causes damage to Valencia Elementary and broken glass causes injuries to some of the children. Officials said if media and parents arrived at the scene a public information officer would inform the media of injuries and threats. Officers would also keep the scene free of any additional dangers to the parents and children.
Berry related the scenarios to the powerful storm on June 4 which caused power outages, road blocks and spit hail all over the city. Berry talked about keeping an open line with Clovis Police Department and how they had to use portable radios to communicate with other Portales police officers.
“We haven’t had to activate the Emergency Operations Center,” Seefeld said. “We have had severe weather and we had a gas leak a few months ago, but nothing severe to the point where we had to activate it. It is important to be prepared for any of the scenarios discussed today.”
Seefeld added that he would like to set up a time to hold an Incident Command System training session in the near future.