Supervisors planning for emergency

February 24, 2003 11:00 pm

By SCOTT PESZNECKER

Calaveras County supervisors yesterday approved a grant application for the county's Office of Emergency Services to update its electronic map system, and later were briefed on plans to administer smallpox vaccines.

In the meeting's morning segment, supervisors approved a $73,044 state grant application to finish entering data into the county's Geographic Information System maps.

The maps would be an asset during a terrorist attack, wildfire or other major emergency, said Capt. Steve Mathews of the Calaveras County Sheriff's Department.

The maps can simultaneously show the locations of houses, commercial buildings, dams, schools, water lines, power grids and other facilities or infrastructure.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Paul Stein said he worried that the county could be giving terrorists a blueprint of where to strike by creating such detailed maps.

"There's a growing concern that ... we're showing terrorists where our weaknesses are," Stein said.

Mathews and Howard Stohlman, director of the county's Technology Services Department, assured supervisors the maps are only available to certain county employees.

Most areas close to Highway 4 and Highway 49 are well-mapped already, but outlying areas of the county, such as West Point, are not.

The county has had a GIS system for about two years but had to stop updating recently because it could no longer pay employees to collect and enter data.

In an afternoon study session, Calaveras County Health Officer Dean Kelaita gave supervisors an overview of the National Smallpox Vaccination Plan.

The first phase of the plan calls for the vaccination of a limited number of workers in public health departments and hospitals. Vaccinated personnel would be able to respond in case of smallpox emergencies.

Smallpox as a disease was eradicated from the world, Kelaita said, but samples of smallpox remain for scientific use.