The Key to San Jose's Speedy Disaster Recovery: Garbage
Published: May 02, 2017
After the Coyote Creek flooded in February, San Jose’s Environmental Services Department was ready to pick up the trash and help get the city moving again.
While environmental departments have traditionally been among the first on the scene to help clean up after a natural disaster such as a flood, fire, or tornado, it is less common for these departments to be contracted to have equipment and personnel on standby in such events. San Jose, California, has such an agreement with its garbage services to ensure that clean-up after a disaster is quick and efficient.
After the Coyote Creek flooded following the overflow of the Anderson Dam in February, San Jose called on its Environmental Services Department to assist with the removal of over 1,760 tons of debris. The department reports that the major take-away from the effort was that increased communication was necessary between government agencies and the public; the public wanted to know when services would be restored and took advantage of the opportunity to ask any government employee these questions, regardless of their involvement in restoration efforts.
Other jurisdictions can take away a couple of lessons from San Jose’s disaster recovery practice. The first is that it may prove advantageous to investigate the feasibility of requiring environmental services departments to be on-call in case of a natural disaster, just as transportation departments are on standby during a snowstorm. Second, interdepartmental communication following a disaster is paramount to providing citizens with the information they need to feel as though their lives are going to return to normal. Proactively providing information to citizens, whether through radio or mobile apps, will also go a long way to restoring a sense of normalcy.