OFFICE OF EMERGENCY SERVICES


SANTA BARBARA COUNTY

Released June 7, 2000

 

INTRODUCTION

Toward the end of the year 1999, as year 2000 (Y2K) approached, the whole world was apprehensive about the general dependence on computers and the fact that most had been programmed to use data representing the year in two digits.When those digits turned "00," it became difficult to predict how the computers would react, and, in turn, what would happen in their control of almost all of the hardware influencing our lives.Media hype exaggerated the permutations and combinations of possibilities of disaster.

In Santa Barbara County (SBC), the computers were modified, at great expense, to be ready to recognize Y2K as 2000.In many departments, the new year was greeted by supervisors and much of the staff on alert and on the job.The sense of precaution carried on to Santa Barbara County Fire Department Headquarters at 4410 Cathedral Oaks Road, Santa Barbara.A "nerve center" was set up in a tent outside the building accommodating the County's Office of Emergency Services (OES), as well as other agencies such as the State Office of Emergency Services, American Red Cross, Amateur Radio Emergency Services, Fire Districts, Cities, Health Care Providers, Public Works, Sheriff's volunteers, Office of County Administrator, Facility Services, and Utilities.The use of a tent as an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was not new in Santa Barbara County.The advantage this time was that winter inhibits the activity of rattlesnakes, which have appeared in the tent in the past.

Planning for the non-event of Y2K was extensive and cautious because of the concern about the unknown.Preparations at the OES were underway for a period of fifteen months. In a very few hours after the start of Y2K, it was obvious that the "emergency" was over.

CONCLUSION

The 1999-2000 Grand Jury interviewed many personnel in the County Government who deal with disaster preparedness.The County has an excellent emergency preparedness plan (Multihazard Functional Plan) which is constantly being revised and updated.†† The Office of Emergency Services is currently located in the County Fire Department building on Cathedral Oaks Road.When a disaster strikes, the Office meets in a Conference room and/or sets up a temporary tent operation.This is inefficient and inadequate.The 1999-2000 Grand Jury is convinced that the County of Santa Barbara must build an earthquake-proof Emergency Operations Center which is permanent and ready at all times to meet any disaster that occurs, when it occurs.

FINDING AND RECOMMENDATION

Grand Jury Finding 1:The Office of Emergency Services (ES) borrows space from the County Fire Department and can set up a temporary tent when it needs to set up emergency operations.

Santa Barbara County Fire Departmentís Response to Finding 1:Agree with Finding 1.

BOS Response to Finding 1:Agrees with Finding 1.

Grand Jury Recommendation 1:The Board of Supervisors should fund a permanent facility for the EOC operations as soon as possible.

Santa Barbara County Fire Departmentís Response to Recommendation 1:Agree.I feel compelled to preface my response to the recommendation by explaining that emergencies in Santa Barbara County that would require the use of an EOC are considered to be cooperative in nature by both the state and local governments.The County and some State officials agree that there is a strong need for a state and local partnership in the funding of an EOC.

For the 2000/2001 fiscal year the Fire Department asked for a budget expansion of $174,000 to match with a possible receipt of $200,000 from the State Oil Spill Contingency Fund.This money was to be used to start architectural and land use permit work on the new EOC.Unfortunately, in the final days of the State budget process, the Legislature did not approve the grant from the Oil Spill Contingency Fund.As a result, we felt compelled to retract our request to the Board of Supervisors for the budget expansion.

The Legislature has received three requests from State Senator OíConnell for State funding support.In 1998 the Legislature sent a budget proposal to then Governor Wilson who blue-penciled out the request.In 1999 the Legislature approved a budget request which was denied in committee.In the most recent session, the Legislature sent a request that made it to conference committee where it was deleted.†† Regardless of this apparent lack of support from the State, we are convinced that this issue is rising in importance as a priority on the State level.

The Board of Supervisors as evidenced in their approval of its 5-year capital improvement plan, which includes construction of an emergency operations center, has recognized the need for an EOC.†† The Board of Supervisors is very supportive and has actively communicated our needs to our State representatives.

The appropriation of funding for the EOC is currently dependent on nurturing the partnership with the State of California.We believe that the volume of offshore oil development in the Santa Barbara Channel, the continued economic pressure for expansion of offshore development in the north county, combined with the oil tank ship traffic in the channel, demonstrates that there is a strong nexus between state emergency management needs and those of the county.As we proceed into the next legislative session, we will continue our effort in securing funding.

State Senator OíConnell continues his vigorous support of state participation in funding an EOC in Santa Barbara County.My staff and I pledge our continued effort to secure funding through work with both county and state officials.

County Administratorís Response to Recommendation 1:Partially disagree with the recommendation.

First, with regard to the comments included here, we are not speaking for the County Board of Supervisors.They will adopt their own response to this recommendation.We believe that funding of a permanent facility for County emergency operations should be primarily a State responsibility.In recent years, the Board of Supervisors has requested, but has not received, State funding for a new facility.This year, the possibility of State funding, but with a required County contribution, was suggested.However, because State funding was again not forthcoming, the Board was never formally asked to provide a cash match to a possible State grant.

Board of Supervisors Response to Recommendation 1:The recommendation has not yet been implemented but will be implemented in the following manner and timeframe:

The Board of Supervisors believes that funding of a permanent facility for County emergency operations should be primarily a State responsibility.Wildfires, often originating on Federal or State lands, have burned into urban areas with significant property losses.†† Offshore oil development and the movement of oil tankers in adjacent Federal and State waters pose a potentially significant spill hazard.

In recent years, the Board of Supervisors has requested, but has not received, State funding for a new facility.In 1998, the Board of Supervisors, County staff, and our legislative advocate were successful in securing funding from the State Legislature for a new EOC.However, the funding was deleted by then Governor Wilson.In 1999, it appeared that the legislature would again approve funding, however, it was deleted by a budget conference committee.

During the current yearís State budget process, the possibility of State funding, but with a required County contribution, was informally suggested; however, State funding was again not forthcoming.The Board will again request State funding during the 2001 State Legislative Session.†† Providing a local match for a future State grant to build a new emergency operations center would receive serious consideration by the Board of Supervisors, subject to the availability of funds.

 

2000-2001 Grand Jury Comments

The 2000-01 Grand Jury agrees with the responses of the Board of Supervisors, County Administrator, County Fire Chief and the Acting Battalion Chiefs responses to the Findings and Recommendations by all the affected agencies.

This Grand Jury also would like to stress that the County should continue seeking to secure funding from the state of California, and form a partnership arrangement for the Emergency Operations Center.