Honorable Judge William L. Gordon
Presiding Judge, Santa Barbara County Superior Court
1100 Anacapa Street
Santa Barbara, California 93101
Subject: Response to the Grand Jury's Report titled "Preparedness for Disasters" dated April 8, 1996
Dear Judge Gordon:
The attached is my departmental response to the above referenced Grand Jury Report. The attached response includes a re-printing of the Grand Jury's Findings 1 - 4 with my comments interposed, where appropriate.
We thank the Grand Jury for its efforts on this important subject, but express regret that the County Administrator, who also serves as the County Director of Emergency Services, was not interviewed nor provided an opportunity to comment on the issues before the report was released.
Kent M. Taylor
cc: Spencer Boise, Chairman, Santa Barbara County Grand Jury
Jim Thomas, Sheriff/Fire Chief
Andy Rosenberger, OES Director
FINDING 1: Introduced in 1993, California's Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS) is now being integrated into the governmental structure of Santa Barbara County and its cities.
County Administrator Response: We agree. The County Office of Emergency Services (OES) is taking a lead role in integrating the Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS) into the governmental structure of Santa Barbara County and the cities within the county.
RECOMMENDATION 1a: The Board of Supervisors and city councils should expand emergency SEMS training for their employees.
County Administrator Response: The Grand Jury's report does not analyze the amount of SEMS training that has been provided to employees; therefore, it is unclear why this recommendation was made. During 1995-96, OES provided SEMS training to County executives and various field personnel involved in disaster management. In 1996-97, OES plans to expand that training to include public information training as well as additional management and field training. As required by state law, all SEMS training is documented in writing for each participant.
It should be noted that SEMS is a state mandate without any reimbursement to local government.
RECOMMENDATION 1b: The County Administrator and each city administrator/manager should address aggressively the need to incorporate emergency-related functions into the job descriptions and performance evaluations of county and city employees.
County Administrator Response: During 1996-97, we will work with OES and the Personnel Department to ensure that appropriate emergency related functions are reflected in the job descriptions (and thereby the performance evaluation criteria) of staff involved in disaster management.
It should be noted however, that many staff positions already have emergency functions incorporated into their job descriptions and performance evaluations (e.g.: Sheriff's Department, Fire Department and OES personnel as well as certain department heads and the County Administrator).
FINDING 2: The 1994 restructuring of the county Office of Emergency Services (OES) reduced the staff by 50%. From the 1989-90 budget to the reorganization in 1994 and termination of the Joint Powers Agreement, the OES budget dropped 72%. Also, there was an 84% decrease in the net contribution from the county. These reductions have left the OES understaffed and lacking adequate resources to be effective in an overwhelming disaster.
County Administrator Response: We disagree with some of the Grand Jury's statistics and their conclusion that OES is "....lacking in resources to be effective in an overwhelming disaster."
Although the 1994 restructuring and transfer of OES to the Fire Department reduced OES staff by two (a 33% reduction not a 50% reduction), Fire Department staff have been assigned to OES on a part time basis. Basically continuing the previous level of service in OES. In fact, it could be argued that the Fire/OES merger increased OES resources both in terms of staff and equipment. For instance, Fire Department staff have assisted in EOC management during the 1995 floods and in SEMS training. Additionally, Fire support staff and equipment (fiscal, logistics, etc) also assist the OES division on a regular basis.
The 1989-90 Final Budget, allocated nine (9) staff positions to OES. Likewise, the 1994-95 Final Budget allocated nine (9) positions to OES. Finally, there are currently nine (9) positions assigned to OES. Attached is a copy of the Fire Department's organization chart reflecting the current staffing.
The 1989-90 Final Budget allocated $927,329 to OES. The 1994-95 Final Budget allocated $812,111 to OES, a 12.4% decrease from 1989-90 not a 72% decrease.
In 1989-90, the adopted net county contribution to OES was $210,579 which included $80,380 for the hazardous materials program. In 1994-95, the adopted net contribution to OES was $71,102 with the county contribution to hazardous materials appearing in another budget. Therefore, from 1989-90 to 1994-95, the adopted net county contribution to OES, exclusive of the hazardous materials program, decreased by 45.2% not 84%. During that period, the Joint Powers Agreement between the county and the cities was dissolved relieving all parties from the financial obligations and duties encompassed by the agreement.
The budget reductions that have been made were in part occasioned by the State of California's transfer of millions of dollars of county property tax revenues to finance the State's obligation to schools. Notwithstanding budget reductions, based on the positive results achieved by OES staff during the two 1995 flood disasters and subsequent recovery effort, we do not agree that OES is understaffed or that it lacks adequate resources to be effective in a major disaster.
RECOMMENDATION 2a: The Board of Supervisors should increase the OES staff by at least one qualified generalist to plan and establish a broader training program for hundreds more employees each year.
RECOMMENDATION 2b: The Board of Supervisors should provide emergency funding for Recommendation 2a in the 1996-97 budget
County Administrator Response: While we agree that adding staff to OES would enhance its ability to train county and city employees, reduced revenues will make it very difficult to even continue existing staff let alone adding staff in 1996-97. Unfortunately, due to the reduced revenues, the County Administrator is having to consider recommending reductions to the OES budget for 1996-97. If reductions are occasioned, staff will work to restructure OES so as to maximize its ability to continue providing appropriate disaster management functions.
RECOMMENDATION 2c: The Board of Supervisors and the County Administrator should include the county OES in the distribution of revenues from Proposition 172
County Administrator Response: The Board of Supervisors has adopted a resolution allowing Proposition 172 revenues to be allocated in accordance with a formula developed and agreed upon by the county public safety agencies. As pertains to Proposition 172, the Board has defined public safety agencies to include: the District Attorney including the District Attorney Drug and Alcohol program, the Sheriff-Coroner, Sheriff Custody, Fire, Parks (ocean lifeguards only), Public Defender and Alternate Public Defender, Probation Officer and Probation Institutions.
Whether OES would be included in the above definition will require further interpretation. However, if it is determined that OES is included in the definition of public safety agencies as it applies to Proposition 172, then any portion of Proposition 172 funding distributed to OES would result in less Proposition 172 funds being distributed to other public safety departments.
Lastly, it is noted that while Proposition 172 revenues now equal approximately $18 million annually. The County is now losing approximately $25 million a year in property taxes due to the State's actions discussed earlier. The majority of the County's property taxes pay for public safety. Therefore it is incorrect to conclude that Proposition 172 has given the County "new" money.
FINDING 3: The county's Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is constructed inadequately to withstand major disasters
County Administrator Response: We disagree. The Grand Jury report does not provide the basis for this finding so it is unclear how this conclusion was reached. The County EOC is in the basement of the main jail located in Goleta and has been successfully utilized numerous times during several major disasters. While we agree that the EOC could be functionally enhanced to accommodate more automation and other electronic equipment, the EOC structure has demonstrated its adequacy during major disasters.
RECOMMENDATION 3: The Board of Supervisors should accelerate and approve planning and funding for a much-needed improved structure to replace the inadequate EOC.
County Administrator Response: Our office will continue to discuss how to improve the functionality and potential replacement of the EOC with Sheriff and Fire management as well as OES staff. However, no funds are currently identified for such replacement..
FINDING 4: Emergency planning is essential for the cities in the County. The City of Santa Barbara has a well established emergency preparedness program. The City of Lompoc has developed a detailed program of response and evacuation if Bradbury Dam were to fail.
County Administrator Response: We agree.
RECOMMENDATION 4b: To improve protection for Santa Barbara County citizens, the seven city administrators/managers and also the county emergency officials of the Emergency Services Council should intensify mutual aid programs, coordinate resources within each city, and generate an increased awareness of each city's potential needs in time of disaster.
County Administrator Response: We agree. Generally, three types of "mutual" aid are available; automatic aid, recipient aid by agreement and inter-agency purchase of services. A lengthy discussion of the types of aid is not necessary. However, we agree that it would be appropriate to intensify mutual aid programs and coordinate resources, particularly between those agencies which have no such agreements. We further agree that a heightened awareness of each community's potential needs is a good idea. Fire departments and law enforcement agencies within Santa Barbara County have mutual and automatic aid agreements which specify what resources are available and under which conditions. Such Mutual Aid agreements also cover other counties within the state. Fire agencies regularly send equipment well out of the area to help during emergencies (witness both the Los Angeles presence in the Santa Ynez Valley during the Marre Fire in 1993, and the reciprocity of Santa Barbara teams responding to the Laguna, Steckel and Greenmeadow fires later the same year).
On a similar note, emergency managers within the State belong to a mutual aid plan for staffing overhead positions in the Emergency Operations Center. This plan is known as "EMMA," or Emergency Managers Mutual Aid.
The Office of Emergency Services developed and conducted a tabletop exercise for the Emergency Services Council on May 1st of this year which simulated a disaster designed to tax the resources of all agencies within the County. Members were asked to make policy decisions, coordinate actions and work cooperatively to prioritize incidents and allocate scarce resources between jurisdictions. The Council has asked that this drill lead to more ambitious training exercises in the near future. As an action item after the exercise, the Council asked OES to draft a resolution on resource allocation policy to be adopted by all jurisdictions, which is now a work in progress.
We believe it would be helpful for the Emergency Services Council to direct their respective staff to develop mutual aid plans and current resource lists. We will work with the Council toward that end.