Tuesday, September 28, 2010

[californiadisasters] L.A. County's Emergency System Weathers The Heat

First responders and power utilities are kept busy but only for a short while because of a unique weather pattern that brought an intense but manageable shot of dry heat that quickly receded.

As the mercury shot upward Monday, first responders and power utilities braced for a hellish day of outages, heat-related illnesses and brush fires.

But if they expected chaos, they got a manageable onslaught instead.

Put to an aggressive test, Los Angeles County's emergency system handled strains during the short but intense heat wave, responding to a swell in heat-related medical calls and record energy demand with relative precision, even as temperatures pushed to an all-time high of 113 degrees in downtown Los Angeles.

Dispatchers at the Emergency Operations Center, four floors beneath Los Angeles City Hall East, hunkered down to answer an incessant influx of emergency calls from morning to midnight, a volume of calls that was among the heaviest on record — larger even than during the 1994 Northridge earthquake, officials said.

"We couldn't keep up with the calls that were coming in," said Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Gail Manning, a floor supervisor. The incidents "were spiking all day long. The dispatchers were really taking a beating. They went from one call to another."

Although fire officials logged 1,900 calls and rushed 697 people to local hospitals for treatment, there was little to no jump in heat-related patient admissions to county hospitals, according to a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.

Still, at least two deaths have been attributed to the heat since Monday, according to the Los Angeles County coroner's office.

Arquimedes Jose Mestre, 56, was found dead of hyperthermia Monday on a street in Pomona. The coroner's office also determined that the death of 56-year-old Sally Menke, the longtime film editor for director Quentin Tarantino, who was discovered dead early Tuesday morning in Griffith Park, was heat-related.

About 100,000 power customers faced outages throughout Southern California as crews worked to repair cables, circuit breakers and transformers that conked out in the heat.

Overall, however, the complications were less severe than in past heat waves. In July 2006, day after day of sweltering heat claimed more than 100 lives statewide and unrelenting power demand led to outages that darkened more than 1 million households in Southern California.


View entire article here: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0929-heat-resources-20100929,0,703656.story

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