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Santa Barbara County’s Aware & Prepare Program Alerts Citizens About Disasters

Residents encouraged to develop plans for emergency communication and safe meeting places

The Santa Barbara County Emergency Operations Center activates for disasters, such as the multiagency response to the 2015 Refugio oil pipeline leak. Click to view larger
The Santa Barbara County Emergency Operations Center activates for disasters, such as the multiagency response to the 2015 Refugio oil pipeline leak.  (Noozhawk file photo)

Fire, flood, hazardous spills, active shooter, extreme weather. There are things you need to know when they’re happening to protect yourself, your family and friends.

If emergency responders can’t reach you, they can’t alert you.

        |  Emergency Preparedness 2017  |  Complete Series Index  |

Most of us use cell phones to communicate, interact and get our news in a timely way. There’s an immediacy to our lives, and we can be reached at any time through mobile devices.

This is good news for countywide emergency responders and personnel when they need to alert the community about emergencies and disasters. Emergencies can happen any time, so the ability to reach residents in real time, as it happens improves your ability to get to safety.

In Santa Barbara County, we have the Aware & Prepare initiative, which is a public-private partnership dedicated to strengthening community disaster resiliency.

Aware and Prepare enhances the capabilities and coordination of government agencies and nonprofit organizations in mitigating, preparing for, responding to and recovering from emergencies and disasters.

“Aware and Prepare is an invaluable resource during emergency situations,” said Robert Lewin, director of the county Office of Emergency Management. “Ensuring everyone throughout the county knows how to prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies and natural disasters — such as floods, wildfires and earthquakes — is vital.

“If we can’t find you, we can’t notify you and your family about emergencies in your area. I encourage everyone, even visitors to our county, to register for alerts at AwareandPrepare.org and have an escape plan.”

So, you received the alert, now what? Everyone should have a disaster plan and be prepared with a plan.

Why make a plan? Your family may not be together if a disaster strikes, so it is important to think about the following situations and plan just in case.

Consider the following questions when making a plan:

» How will my family/household get emergency alerts and warnings?

» How will my family/household get to safe locations for relevant emergencies?

» How will my family/household get in touch if cell phone, Internet or landline doesn’t work?

» How will I let loved ones know I am safe?

» How will my family/household get to a meeting place after the emergency?

Here are a few easy steps to start your emergency communication plan:

» Discuss family and household plans for disasters that may affect your area and plan where to go. Plan together in advance so everyone in the household understands where to go during a different type of disaster, like a flood, wildfire or earthquake.

» Collect information. Create a paper copy of the contact information for your family that includes home, cell and office phone numbers; email addresses; social media sites for information; medical facilities, doctors and service providers; and your children’s schools.

» Identify information and pick an emergency meeting place. Decide on safe, familiar places where your family can go for protection or to reunite.

Make sure these locations are accessible for household members with disabilities or access and functional needs. If you have pets or service animals, think about animal-friendly locations.

Examples of meeting places may be a mailbox at the end of the driveway or a neighbor’s house. Outside of your neighborhood, it could be a library, community center, place of worship or a family friend’s home.

Make sure everyone knows the address of the meeting place and discuss ways you would get there.

» Share information. Make sure everyone carries a copy in his or her backpack, purse or wallet. You should also post a copy in a central location in your home, such as your refrigerator or family bulletin board.

» Practice your plan. Have regular household meetings to review your emergency plans, communication plans and meeting place after a disaster and then practice, just like you would a fire drill.

Our countywide emergency managers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, EMT/paramedics, and other emergency responders do an incredible job of keeping us safe, but they cannot do it alone.

We must all embrace our personal responsibility to be prepared and in doing so, we contribute to the safety and security of our communities as well.

        |  Emergency Preparedness 2017  |  Complete Series Index  |

— Gina DePinto is the communications manager for the County of Santa Barbara.

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