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Tuesday, March 19 , 2019, 3:31 am | Fog/Mist 53º


Dan Singer: An Open Letter to the Goleta Community

An early focus on preparedness paid off, but the city's emergency response will be refined anew for next time

Goleta and the surrounding area owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the emergency first responders who worked tirelessly to keep our community safe during the Gap Fire. While more than 9,700 acres burned, hundreds and hundreds of homes were saved. No lives were lost and no significant injuries reported. Truly heroic efforts were on display by law enforcement and firefighters. I also want to acknowledge the good will and cooperation of our community. Your responsiveness during this disaster and willingness to cooperate with law enforcement and other agencies during such a trying time is a demonstration of the quality citizenry we have here.

Dan Singer
Dan Singer

Any time a community is faced with a significant disaster or challenge there are bound to be both successes and “lessons learned.” For a young city like Goleta, the recent emergency gave our organization an opportunity to test our emergency operations — not in a binder, but on the ground. The city of Goleta maintained a 24-hour round-the-clock presence at the Santa Barbara County Emergency Operations Center representing Goleta interests and working closely with law enforcement, fire, and county emergency operations staff to ensure that our community’s needs were met. We were pleased that the Disaster Services Trailers recently purchased by the Goleta Partnership for Preparedness were used when the American Red Cross, Santa Barbara County Chapter set up its emergency shelter. However, we were frustrated by our desire — and our commitment — to provide current, accurate and reliable information to our community when critical infrastructure and systems either failed or were not in place. The loss of electricity and related system vulnerabilities gave us pause as to how we can keep our residents and businesses informed during a disaster.

Ironically, in June the city of Goleta acquired a new emergency and community notification telecommunications system designed to contact residents and businesses via landline, cell phone, e-mail, text messages, and personal digital assistants (PDAs). This system, called “Goleta City Alert,” can reach thousands of homes in a matter of minutes and is not dependent on electricity to get critical information to our community. Our intention was to launch this new system in mid-July with the city’s newsletter, The Monarch Press. However, the Gap Fire did not want to wait! While we did end up using our new “Goleta City Alert” system and many Goleta residents received several calls from me, we have not perfected our system nor publicized all the many features that we intend to utilize to keep our community informed.

In the next several weeks, we will officially launch “Goleta City Alert” and residents and businesses will have the opportunity to visit our Web site, and register up to five different phone numbers, e-mails and cell phone numbers per address so that you are guaranteed to receive timely and critical information when an alert is sent.

We are very proud of this new system and what it will mean for our community; however, we know this is but one step in a series of what we need to do to fulfill our most basic mission, to keep our community safe and informed when we face an emergency situation.

As a growing organization and community, you can be sure that the city of Goleta will use this disaster as a means of further refining our emergency response efforts. In that regard, we welcome your input and ideas as we strive to serve this city to the best of our abilities.

— Dan Singer is Goleta’s city manager.

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