Question and answer: Ken de los Santos

Ken de los Santos, 39, serves as the city’s emergency management director.

Q: How long have you been in this position with the city of Clovis?
A: Nearly two years now. I started in October 2002.

Q: What was your background prior to this position?
A: I’m retired from the Air Force in 2001. My last assignment was here at Cannon Air Force Base. I’m originally from Roswell. I enlisted in the Air Force at 17 — my parents had to sign reluctantly. I never thought I’d come back to New Mexico. I was at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, and had one last assignment left. A slot was open here, so I thought, “Why not?” I ended up loving it here.

Q: How would you describe your job?
A: My job is to coordinate all the efforts of the area’s first-responders and other agencies during disasters — and also to ensure that we’re planning and preparing for any type of disaster.

Q: What would you consider to be the major kinds of disasters for this area?
A: There are 10 major types of disasters in this area. At the top of the list are all the weather-related disasters, such as thunderstorms, tornadoes, winter storms, flash flooding, windstorms and drought. Second would be hazardous materials incidents because of the railroad, trucks and the military being in the area. Of course, there’s the possibility of terrorist attacks.

Q: How would you rate our community’s preparedness during this recent bout of thunderstorms and tornado threats?
A: For Clovis and Curry County, it was very good. Everything went very well. Our spotters were calling in information, our law enforcement and firefighters were handling normal emergencies despite the storm, the county and city assistant managers were very involved, and our dispatchers did an awesome job — especially when they had to take care of Portales 911 calls after their system went down.

Q: We understand that the National Weather Service lost its radar site at Cannon for about 20 minutes during Wednesday’s storm. What do you do when that happens?
A: If Cannon’s radar goes down, I look at Amarillo and Lubbock because we’re in their radar range. I rely heavily on the National Weather Service in Albuquerque because that’s where we get our primary weather information.

Q: What would be the greatest need for our area to be better prepared for disasters?
A: Too often, people don’t know what to do — they’re not preplanning on an individual basis. The Local Emergency Planning Committee has as part of its responsibility to provide community awareness. They distribute handouts and flyers, and they’re working hard at doing that. A lot of education needs to be done. People were going to the courthouse, thinking it would be a good place to go, but it was closed. At the present time, we have no public shelters for tornadoes. Each individual must preplan on where they need to go. A lot of churches have basements, and they may open them up to their congregations. Another thing, some people wondered if the second alarm we sounded was an all-clear signal. It wasn’t. We don’t have an all-clear signal.
Q: Any additional suggestions you want to share with the community?

A: People need to know they can help in the preparation and planning for disasters by participating in the Local Emergency Planning Committee. For information, they can visit our Web site at:
— Compiled by CNJ Senior Writer Gary Mitchell