June 7, 1996
Honorable Judge William L. Gordon
Presiding Judge, Santa Barbara County Superior Court
1100 Anacapa Street
Santa Barbara, California 93101
Dear Judge Gordon,
The following is the OES response to Findings 4, 5, and 8 and Recommendations 4b, 5b and 8a as required in the Grand Jury report titled "Preparedness for Disasters" dated April 8, 1996.
"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."
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."
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.
"FINDING 5: The Montecito Emergency Response and Recovery Action Group (MERRAG) offers a good model for providing emergency services in the unincorporated areas of the County."
Response: We agree. We believe that MERRAG is the sort of multi-disciplinary group that the SEMS (Standardized Emergency Management System) legislation had in mind. Montecito Fire Chief Herb McElwee has a right to be proud of this group. We have seen them in action and they have provided invaluable services to the Fire District during floods and fires and during the windstorm late last year. However, molding the SEMS model to fit into less organized communities, especially those with limited resources and less of an emergency response commitment will be a challenge.
"RECOMMENDATION 5b: With additional staff, the County OES should be aware of all the community service organizations and act as an overseer to consolidate overlapping services assuring the most efficient and effective services to meet citizen needs."
Response: We agree that with additional staff, OES could act more in the role of overseer of community services. OES formed the Disaster Preparedness Coordinating Council (DPCC) to address the recommended overseer need. After staff cuts, OES turned the chair of the DPCC over to the American Red Cross which continues to provide leadership to the Council. An emerging issue is how to handle certain special populations during disasters. Special populations (disabled, language barriers, cultural differences, the aged, etc.) are especially at risk during a disaster and a combination of additional planning and public education are needed in this area. Although additional OES staff would help to better coordinate and facilitate that planning, we recognize current constraints on County funds and therefore understand that additional resources may not be able to be allocated for additional staff.
Over the past decade, OES has been financed from a number of sources; Federal grant monies, JPA funds, the County General Fund and funds from private industry. The JPA funding source was dissolved by agreement, and other sources have been increasingly constrained.
ounty funding for any augmentation of staff and facilities will be a challenge due to constrained resources and budget priorities. If further reductions are implemented, the County Administrator and the Fire Department could work to develop a strategy to restructure the existing OES organization to maximize its ability to continue to provide appropriate disaster planning and recovery programs contained within the Grand Jury report.
Unfortunately, due to reduced resources, the County Administrator is considering recommending reductions to the 1996-1997 OES budget.
"FINDING 8: The County's institutional owners (schools, hospitals, public buildings, airports and harbors) are highly sensitive to safety requirements mandated by law, but the residential areas are much less aware of the need for disaster preparedness."
We agree. Recent disasters (1995 flood events, 1990 "Paint" Fire) demonstrated that segments of the population have a firm expectation that local government will respond to their needs during a disaster; therefore, there is a need for local emergency officials to provide additional outreach to citizens, to help them better plan and prepare for disasters, particularly in residential areas. However, once again, funding constraints in all jurisdictions will limit the amount of outreach that can be provided.
"RECOMMENDATION 8a: It is critical that the County's residents should be continually encouraged by the media and public service organizations to become more aware of and involved in personal preparation and protection in case of disaster."
We agree. Although, due to reduced resources, two staff positions were deleted, the merger of OES with the Fire Department allowed OES to access additional part-time resources to deal with the public education issue. Two fire captains have worked on ESP (Earthquake Survival Program), and have provided the materials necessary to bring this program to the public, to the 15 County Fire stations and to the city coordinators. Additionally, during 1996, OES hosted a multi-jurisdictional/multi-discipline "earthquake month barbecue" attended by representatives from various agencies countywide. Finally, OES has obtained large volumes of public education materials, has distributed those materials to the cities within the Operational Area, and has made them available to County residents.
In summary, we thank the Grand Jury for making its findings and recommendations. They will serve to help enhance disaster preparation, mitigation, response and recovery. However, resource constraints may make some of the Grand Jury's recommendations difficult to implement in the short term.
Director, Office of Emergency Services
c: Spencer Boise, Chairman, Santa Barbara County Grand Jury
Kent Taylor, County Administrator