Politics

Feeding, housing Angelenos in a disaster to be outsourced

George Rodriguez, 69, a volunteer, loads sandbags at the Glendora City Yard in preparation for a rainstorm.
George Rodriguez, 69, a volunteer, loads sandbags at the Glendora City Yard in preparation for a rainstorm.
Jed Kim

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The city of Los Angeles recently finalized contracts with two independent contractors to provide food, shelter, toilets, showers and debris removal in a major disaster if the city's own resources are stretched to the limit by earthquake, fire, or flooding.

L.A. is vulnerable to a variety of natural and manmade disasters — terrorist attacks, pandemics, even tsunamis. But a city audit in 2012 found the city was lagging in preparations to feed and shelter displaced residents in the event of a major catastrophe.

Emergency Management Department head James Featherstone says the new contracts will help close that gap. They are modeled on cities that get lots of hurricanes.

"We looked at jurisdictions that had these type of 'break glass in case of fire' type of contracts," Featherstone said.

Under separate, pre-approved contracts, two big engineering companies — Ashbritt Environmental and CTI Environmental — could provide power, water and shelter for up to 750,000 residents and some 300,000 of their pets. They would set up food distribution stations, too. And this is L.A. — so we're talking ready-to-eat options like vegan, dairy-free, Kosher and gluten-free.

Controller Ron Galperin says most of his office's 56 disaster planning recommendations in the 2012 audit have been met but that city departments need to continually update their disaster response plans.

"Needs change, and technology changes and there are always important ways to step up to what are going to be inevitable emergencies," Galperin said.