how to waste tax money. a lesson from the city of scottsdale arizona


Tips for every crisis except financial one

Nov. 7, 2002

In the event of an emergency, dial 911. Be prepared to give the location of the emergency.

Now, there's some good advice. But there's more.

If you see lightning, go inside.

In the event of heavy wind, a tornado or a microburst, go to a safe place.

To prepare for a flood, move to higher ground.

So says the city of Scottsdale.

In their best imitation Boy Scout mode, our leaders are distributing a brochure on how to deal with emergencies. It's a fancy, full-color affair, with pullout instructions for what to do in the event of brush fires, suspicious packages, biological threats and all manner of perilous predicaments.

Scottsdale has mailed out more than 115,000 emergency readiness brochures over the past month or so. The fold-out pamphlet contains two pockets with 10 cards that spell out what you need to know.

"We combined a plethora of information, as you can see, and put it all in one place to give our citizens kind of a one-stop reference point for all different types of emergencies," explained Mark Eisen, the city's emergency services officer.

Things like what do to if you lose power. Call the power company. Use flashlights.

And what to do if you're in a building that's on fire. Warn others, activate the fire alarm and get out of the building.

"We find that people have a lot of questions about a variety of things and don't really know where to go," Eisen said.

Now, fortunately, they do.

But brace yourself, because here's something that'll really give the old ticker a jolt.

Cost of these emergency brochures: $100,000.


In a time when governments the nation over are pulling in, clamping down and sucking up, Scottsdale is spending $100,000 on a brochure to tell you that if you evacuate, it's important to take your pet with you. (Here's another helpful hint: Make sure Foo-Foo is wearing an ID tag and a collar.)

Most of the money, $85,000, is coming from a federal grant called Project Impact. It's a program that provides money to cities to help them prepare for emergencies. Scottsdale is picking up the rest of the tab, mostly in staff time devoted to creating the brochure.

"Obviously, it was after 9/11 and we were all very much interested in getting information out to the public on emergency procedures," explained Pat Dodds, the city's communications czar.

Information like what to do if you have a disability. Have a plan and a back-up power supply for essential medical equipment.

And what do to if items are falling off the bookshelves or from the ceiling. Get under a sturdy table or desk.

Now, I don't really mean to demean the city's efforts. There is some useful material in the brochure. It does, for example, give you the phone number for Arizona Public Service or the Salt River Project (in the event your power goes out). And it does tell you who to call in the event of a fire (911).

But I do have to wonder what the heck our leaders are doing spending money on this in a year when the city finds itself $5 million short of funds and the feds, well, I don't even want to think how deep in the red they're operating these days.

I will, however, offer you just a few more helpful hints that the city missed - free of charge: If you see a sniper, duck. If you get a package that ticks, don't open it.

And if you see a city official coming, by all means, grab your wallet and hang on to it for dear life.

Reach Roberts at or at (602) 444-6873.

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