NEEDLES — The coronavirus outbreak that has stretched all around the world has had impacts on businesses, schools, sports season, local governments and it has made people take on different duties.
One of those who has taken on additional duties is Rainie Torrance, City of Needles assistant utility manager.
Being the assistant utility manager is Torrance’s regular job. During this COVID-19 pandemic, she also is the city’s emergency response manager.
“I coordinate with local, state and federal agencies and have weekly meetings with other cities, towns and tribes in San Bernardino County,” said Torrance. “In the meetings, we have larger cities and all other towns like Barstow, Colton, Big Bear Lake and Loma Linda. We get to see and hear how they are responding.”
At the local level, Torrance’s responsibilities while being the emergency response manager include maintaining contact with San Bernardino County Fire Department, Baker Ambulance, Needles Unified School District and San Bernardino County Public Health to make sure that all have a plan and have communicated how they are preparing for an outbreak of COVID-19 in the area.
As of Monday, no positive cases had been reported in Needles. However, 530 cases — and 16 deaths — have been reported in San Bernardino County.
“We are communicating and working together as a community to be ready and know what to do if we have a potential individual with a positive case of COVID-19,” said Torrance. “The San Bernardino County Public Health has been outstanding. They take over if we have a positive case, they find out where an individual has been and who may be in contact to isolate the spread. We have posted on our website (cityofneedles.com) a couple of safe do’s and don’ts, tips on what symptoms are to educate the community. We are asking the community for good hand washing routines and social distancing.”
Not only is Torrance in daily contact with state and federal agencies but according to Rick Daniels, city manager, she’s also applying for funds to help the city recover costs because of the virus.
“She (Torrance) has become a quick study on state, federal and county funding requirements,” said Daniels. “She’s also working to assist small businesses to hook them up with banks. She’s a tremendous asset to the city, she’s a good model for young girls to become and we are proud to have her.”
This isn’t the first time that Torrance has had to wear the hat of emergency response manager. Through her previous experience, she learned a couple of things.
“When the city went through the D Street water main break, I helped maintain emergency response during that,” said Torrance. “A lot of the same tools during the water main break are used during the COVID-19 pandemic such as what do you do, how do you inform the public and just like we used Code Red to give updates on the water main break, we use the same to give updates on COVID-19.”
The general public can sign up for Code Red to receive updates on COVID-19 from the city or during any other emergency response time by going to the city’s website and selecting the Code Red link.
Going through the D Street water main break, Torrance, as well as the city, learned a lot and implemented it during this time.
“The big difference is that we learned not to panic or overreac. We were a lot calmer and followed protocols from state, local and federal level,” said Torrance. “We have been calm during this pandemic and that is the biggest difference. What has helped us not overreact during this situation is that the information that the governments have given us is being streamlined, which makes it easier to inform everybody on what’s going on. That has been helpful.”
During this time, being the emergency response manager does take up a lot of Torrance’s day. But she still is the assistant utility manager and has to make sure to perform her regular duties as well.
“Our crews for utilities are essential providers to the community and they know that they have an important role to keep the lights on and keep the utilities running,” said Torrance. “We do ask them to practice social distance as long as they can, we are limiting training and group meetings to less than 10, some crews are not responding to City Hall, they just go to the job site, they have all been given hygiene products, every vehicle has hand sanitizer and they are all practicing proper handwashing to make sure that they stay safe at work and if they don’t feel well they are told to stay at home,” said Torrance. “Communication as a team is important to stay safe and provide for the community.”
Like people around the world being impacted by COVID-19 in their personal lives, Torrance has had to learn to adapt.
“Just like everyone, I’m learning to adapt to homeschooling my children, have social distancing, learning to be isolated and practicing proper handwashing,” said Torrance. “It can be hard with two small kids who don’t understand what a virus is and them wanting to go with their friends. It’s challenging for everybody right now.”