SEASIDE - Better communication and education about public safety issues is driving a new committee proposed in Seaside.

The Spring Break Task Force, a volunteer committee appointed by the mayor every spring to help coordinate activities and responses to massive crowds in town, recommended the formation of a year-round group focused on public safety. City councilors considered the proposal this week.

As recommended, the committee would act as an advisory body to councilors, the city manager, the fire chief and the police chief. It could be defined broadly enough to help with the formation and publicity of evacuation routes during tsunamis or other natural disasters, councilors said Monday.

Such a group would help to "bridge the communication gap" between the public and county and local emergency preparedness plans, Mayor Rosemary Baker-Monaghan said.

A committee meeting year-round could help not only with spring break issues, but also an array of other matters relating to safety and security, said Ken Almberg, chief of the Seaside Police Department. It could help communicate to the public the location of emergency food, water and shelters, but also could help in exploring how Seaside should deal with the consequences of overcrowded county jail space, he said.

"Public safety is an ongoing business," Almberg said. "We have to work together so we can protect the community."

Joe Dotson, chief of the Seaside Fire Department, voiced support for the committee particularly as an education tool. An assortment of local, state and national associations already set policy guidelines, but from tabletop disaster drills to resource plans, "any chance to educate the public on what that fire department does, on a volunteer basis, I think is a good thing."

Gloria Linkey, who has chaired the Spring Break Task Force, said the group could offer tips on coping with communication or power outages and ways to help elderly people trapped in their homes in an emergency.

As proposed, the committee would:

• Assist city councilors in recognizing community priorities by advising it on public safety resources;

• Increase communication between city public safety agencies and the community;

• Identify issues regarding the delivery of public safety services, reduce misunderstandings about them and inform the public about practices, limitations and policies.

• Provide a forum for input on public safety.

The committee could coordinate with other groups, such as the Clatsop County Public Safety Coordinating Council, proponents said.

As recommended, the Seaside Public Safety Committee would consist of six permanent members and four on temporary terms. The permanent members would include the fire and police chiefs (or their designees), a city councilor appointed by the mayor, and representatives of the Seaside Downtown Development Association, the Seaside Chamber of Commerce and the Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District.

Others would be nominated by the mayor and appointed by city councilors. Proponents suggested they could be selected among youth, educators and diverse ethnic, cultural or economic backgrounds.

Councilors directed the staff to prepare an ordinance establishing the committee.

Councilor Larry Haller said recently he attended a forum about how cities should formulate plans regarding terrorism, which indicated cities need to largely need to take their own initiative on emergency preparedness.

The proposed public safety committee is an example of such a step, he said. "I think it's a great idea."


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