Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management

Photo: Sabine Poux/KDLL

When an 8.2-magnitude earthquake hit near the Alaska Peninsula Wednesday, local alert systems sprang into action, beeping, buzzing and blaring to notify Alaskans in coastal communities they should get to higher ground.

Those notification systems require lots of preparation and funding well before a tsunami threat hits, explained Dan Nelson, emergency manager with the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Office of Emergency Management.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

The disaster declaration for the Kenai Peninsula Borough is now extended through June. It means the borough can continue holding large-scale COVID-19 vaccine clinics.

That’s especially important now that the state has opened vaccine eligibility to a larger swath of the population. Starting today, those considered “essential workers,” Alaskans over 55 and people with conditions that put them at higher risk for contracting a severe case of COVID-19 are eligible to get their first doses.

Dr. Kristin Mitchell, with Central Peninsula Internal Medicine, Justin Rufridge, co-owner of Soldotna Professional Pharmacy, and Dan Nelson, manager of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management, are here to discuss the COVID vaccine this week.

When the coronavirus vaccine first became available to Alaskans 65 and up, there was a mad dash for appointments.

Susie Smalley, of Kenai, had the state’s website to book appointments open on the first day. It was a bit hectic.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

A 7.5 earthquake near Sand Point this afternoon triggered a tsunami warning in Kachemak Bay communities, as well as across the Aleutians and Alaska Peninsula. The warning has since been cleared.

Following the earthquake, which hit Sand Point around 12:54 p.m., residents of Homer and the greater Kachemak Bay area were told to get to higher ground and were beginning to evacuate. But residents across the peninsula were also warned, which was an error.

KPB Alerts

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted to cover the $250,000 used by the borough to mitigate floods in Seward earlier this month.

Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce issued an emergency disaster declaration Oct. 2 when heavy rainfall from the day before caused flooding on the eastern peninsula, creating a large load of sediment that damaged borough-maintained roads. Among the damaged areas were Dieckgraeff Road, a gravel road that is the only pathway to the borough’s solid waste transport facility in the Seward-Bear Creek area, as well as two subdivisions.

Are you prepared?

Sep 18, 2020
Sabine Poux/KDLL

Try to count how many disasters we saw this year and you will run out of fingers. 

2020 is most certainly going down in history as the year of emergencies. September, however, is all about guarding against emergencies. For this year’s National Emergency Preparedness Month, Dan Nelson, emergency manager for the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management, is doling out some advice about what it means to expect the unexpected.

CDC

There are more ways than one that the flu shot might protect people against COVID-19.

There’s the fact that getting vaccinated will reduce an individual’s likelihood to experience the flu and coronavirus concurrently. Furthermore, protection against the flu will lessen the risk that influenza cases stress Alaska’s hospital capabilities.

But widespread efforts to administer the flu shot might also prove handy in prepping the peninsula for the eventual arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine. Think of it as a “dry run,” said Bud Sexton of the Borough Office of Emergency Management.

“Since we know there’s going to be a large percentage of the population who will want to get vaccinated with COVID, there’s a lot of timing that goes underway to make sure everything goes well whenever the vaccine is ready for distribution,” Sexton said.

KPE OEM

As the COVID-19 pandemic has stabilized in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the Office of Emergency Management has shifted from response to mitigation and planning for the future.

OEM Director Dan Nelson briefed the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday night. Back in February and March, OEM focused on contingency planning.

“Specifically around health care facilities. Remember, we were seeing models at that time that this may overwhelm our local hospitals and health care faculties, what we would call patient surge, so what that looked like,” Nelson said. “What kind of contingency plans for response should we have another incident that occurred, a natural disaster, let’s say, during COVID. And many, many other plans.”

Luckily, the peninsula wasn’t hit with a fire or earthquake amid COVID. The infection curve flattened and a patient surge did not occur. But OEM still keeps a daily eye on the numbers and has twice-weekly check-ins with hospitals, cities and other entities. Part of OEM’s job once a disaster declaration has been issued is to obtain resources and getting them where they’re needed. During COVID, that means testing supplies and personal protective equipment.

“In a typical incident that we would manage, we usually have 50 or less of these resource requests. I looked this morning, we are at 312,” Nelson said. “And this is something that is not just a one-time thing. We have some great folks that have worked to track that and got those things to the places they’re needed all across the borough. So the logistics piece of that is a response that’s going on still to this day.”

The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Office of Emergency Management focused on community needs in its twice-weekly community conversation Thursday night. 

Love, INC., a faith-based community support organization headquartered on Kalifornsky Beach Road, is serving as the donations and volunteer coordinator during the COVID-19 pandemic. Executive Director Leslie Rohr said they’re at home in that role, even if the needs lately are higher. 

“We operate as a clearinghouse on a regular basis and that is, needs come into our ministry and then we do find the appropriate resources to fill those needs, and we just are doing it on a larger scale now,” Rohr said.

Kenai Peninsula Borough

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly had some housekeeping measures to take care of related to the borough’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The assembly met for an emergency meeting at 2 p.m. April 3.

All four measures on the agenda passed unanimously. The assembly extended the payment deadline for special assessment districts from March 31 to June 30. Interest on late payments won’t start to accrue until July 1.

South Peninsula Hospital will be allowed to keep additional cash on hand in case the hospital has increased costs in responding to COVID-19 patients. Usually, the hospital would transfer any additional money beyond 90 days worth of operating expenses into the hospital’s plant replacement fund at the end of the quarter, which was March 31. That’ll be put off until the end of the next quarter.

The assembly also gave SPH a green light to apply for a paycheck protection loan, which is part of the federal coronavirus relief act passed by Congress last week. Since elective medical procedures and noncritical services are not being allowed for the time being, SPH estimates an $11.4 million operating loss from March through June. The hospital will apply for $5.6 million to cover payroll and other operating expenses.

Kenai Peninsula Borough

Alaska’s count of confirmed COVID-19 cases jumped to 59 Wednesday.

One new case is attributed to Homer.

But not really Homer. According to Dan Nelson, director of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management, CDC reporting regulations count a person’s community of residence, not where they are tested or being treated.

Nelson says the Homer case was attributed to travel from the Lower 48. They were diagnosed upon arrival in Anchorage and are isolated in the Anchorage area. They did not travel to Homer since coming back to the state.

“So, I want to make that clear to folks that we do, if you look on our statistics, we do officially have a case in Homer. However, that person was not actually down in the Kenai Peninsula,” Nelson said.

Kenai Peninsula Borough

7 p.m. update: Another positive case in Sterling was announced Monday evening.

The central Kenai Peninsula now has confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus. Kenai Peninsula Borough Emergency Manager Dan Nelson announced Saturday that a case had been confirmed in Soldotna and one in Sterling.

The individuals are self-isolating at home. No further information was available over the weekend. As Nelson says, it’s not the borough’s place to share private health information.

HIPPA laws, patient privacy laws, are certainly contributing to that. It’s not the borough’s or anybody else’s prerogative to share somebody’s medical history or medical issues in a public forum. You probably wouldn’t want that if it’s your history. So we aren’t doing that,” Nelson said.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly piloted new methods of conducting business from a distance at its meeting in the Borough Building in Soldotna on Tuesday night.

The borough asked the public not to attend the meeting in person to follow CDC guidelines for social distancing to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Instead, people were encouraged to listen to the meeting over public radio or watch a Facebook live feed and participate by submitting electronic comments, or, in one case, calling in to answer questions related to an ordinance.

People could still testify in person, and a few did, and were asked to sit at least six feet apart and sanitize the guest mic after speaking.

“Will you take a quick moment and wipe that down?”said assembly President Kelly Cooper.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough is considering establishing a fire and medical service area in Ninilchik.

The area has been covered by Ninilchik Emergency Services, which is a nonprofit organization run by a board of directors. But NES has been in turmoil since early this month when the board suddenly dismissed its chief, Dave Bear. Bear notified department volunteers of his departure in an email and stated that the board intended to shut down the department for a few days.

In the following days, due to community pressure and a public meeting, the entire board of directors resigned and Bear was reinstated. The old board has been replaced by a seven-member interim board.

Take a look back at the Nov. 30, 2018, earthquake that shook Southcentral Alaska with Dan Nelson and Bud Sexton with the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management. Find out what went well in that situation, what lessons were learned and how OEM is hoping to get the entire community involved in preparing for the next natural disaster.

Borough Emergency Management office reconfigured

Oct 29, 2019

In just the last year, the Kenai Peninsula has been plagued by torrential rains and flooding, a 7.1 earthquake, and to top it all off, a wildfire stopping traffic and causing evacuation warnings to be given.
    Needless to say, it’s been a busy time at the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management, and as a result, there’ll be changes in the staff there.
    Borough Assembly Vice-President Hal Smalley introduced a resolution from the mayor’s office creating a new position, that of program manager for operations.

Spring time in Alaska also means it's fire season. On this week's Kenai Conversation, we'll talk with Dan Nelson, Emergency Manager for the Kenai Peninsula Borough, about the recent fires that triggered the start of the season, evacuation protocol during a fire and some of the things homeowners can do to prepare for the season if they haven't already. 


While the Kenai Peninsula Borough survived the Nov. 30, 7.0 earthquake and subsequent aftershocks in rosy condition compared to Anchorage and areas of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, it didn’t escape unscathed. Damage reports are still coming in and the repair bills are adding up.

The borough assembly will see an ordinance at its meeting Tuesday asking to appropriate $450,000 to cover repair and inspection costs already incurred and more yet to come.

Borough working to survey earthquake after effects

Dec 5, 2018

 

Borough staff are still analyzing their procedures in responding to last week’s magnitude 7.0 earthquake.

Borough finished with updated hazard mitigation plan

Nov 15, 2018

 

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management has finished its draft update to the all-hazard mitigation plan.

Kenai Peninsula Borough

 

The city of Seward is prepared to make an emergency declaration following several days of heavy rainfall and flooding. The city council will meet Friday to vote on the formal declaration.