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Wednesday, January 16 , 2019, 7:43 pm | Fog/Mist 60º


Supervisors Fund New Position to Work on Santa Barbara County Emergency Preparedness, Outreach

The Board of Supervisors funded a community outreach liaison on Tuesday, and the new position will work on Santa Barbara County emergency-preparedness efforts.

The person will work on preparedness and overall communication efforts from the Office of Emergency Management, county staff said in a letter describing the post.

Tasks will include working on emergency preparedness outreach campaigns, helping open and staff the Joint Information Center and/or call center during emergencies, providing public information during and after emergencies, updating the ReadySBC.org website, and serving as a contact person between community members and county departments.

The Board of Supervisors approved $70,000 in one-time funds to pay for the position through June 2019.

The county previously created a disaster recovery position, and former First Five director Ben Romo has been managing the county’s Montecito Center for Preparedness, Recovery and Rebuilding.

The center is closing this week, and Romo will work out of the OEM for the rest of the year focused on private property owners and recovery from the Thomas Fire and Jan. 9 Montecito debris flow, according to the county.

The Mental Wellness Center will keep operating the recovery center “as a short-term hub for mental wellness related disaster recovery support and services,” the organization said in a statement Monday.

survey question Click to view larger
A Santa Barbara County survey asks questions about emergency information and alerts.  (Santa Barbara County )

The community outreach liaison hire comes one day after the county released a survey asking residents what sources they check for emergency information and whether they are signed up for Nixle and Aware and Prepare alerts.

County emergency officials are evaluating their methods for emergency messaging and identifying evacuation boundaries, Office of Emergency Management Director Rob Lewin told the Board of Supervisors after the Holiday Fire in Goleta.

Some Goleta Valley residents were concerned they did not receive emergency alerts for the fire, which destroyed several homes on North Fairview Avenue, and Sheriff Bill Brown said at the time that authorities targeted earlier alerts to specific evacuation areas — though the fire was visible to a much larger area.

Some of the survey questions address that, and ask how much people want to be in the loop: It asks whether people who are not in an evacuation area or immediate danger would want to receive all “evacuation and danger notices” issued throughout the county, throughout their region, or throughout their zip code.

Residents are asked to respond to the survey by Sept. 16 and can find it here and on the county’s ReadySBC.org website.

There is another survey asking for input on emergency messaging for the Thomas Fire and Jan. 9 Montecito debris flow, which is being conducted by the University of Alabama’s Center for Advanced Public Safety in partnership with the National Weather Service Los Angeles/Oxnard office.

Early results from that survey expose problems with warning and evacuation messages, and show that many residents did not understand what a debris flow was — or the gravity of their own risk — before the Jan. 9 disaster, according to research scientist Laura Myers from the University of Alabama. 

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

survey question Click to view larger
A Santa Barbara County survey question on emergency information sources does not include the county’s 2-1-1 line, news media other than television and radio stations, or the Emergency Operation Center call center, which has been activated during recent disasters including wildfires. (Santa Barbara County )

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