Most people did not register for Santa Barbara County emergency alerts, with a 14% registration rate for the ReadySBC.org system countywide, according to the Office of Emergency Management.
OEM county staff and other departments rely on multiple methods to disseminate information about wildfires, floods and other incidents, OEM Director Kelly Hubbard said Tuesday. to the supervisory board.
She reported on the county’s emergency alert process and said approximately 14% of county residents have signed up to receive targeted alerts from the county. About 39% of South Coast residents have signed up for alerts, Hubbard said.
“These averages, unfortunately, are very common in California and across the country,” she said. “But again, this just highlights that our listings don’t include our entire community, and that’s why we use so many communication tools and processes.”
At the end of 2018, the county reported that approximately 12% of county residents had registered with the Emergency Alert System.
The strategy for county-issued alerts is to send messages with “the right information, to the right people, at the right time,” said Hubbard, OEM director since 2019.
The Supervisory Board voted to receive and file the report, and Supervisor Steve Lavagnino noted that he signed up for ReadySBC alerts at the meeting.
Sheriff’s Office dispatchers send alerts for new threats, such as a wildfire, and then an OEM duty officer is activated and can take over, depending on the incident, Hubbard said.
OEM personnel will write and send pre-notification messages for issues such as power outages and repeating National Weather Service weather warnings.
The sheriff’s office and fire department often create a unified wildfire command and collaborate on emergency alert messaging for evacuation orders or warnings, Sheriff Bill Brown said.
First responders need to assess the emergency, decide what protective actions might be needed (such as evacuating nearby areas), pass that on to dispatchers or the Office of Emergency Management, get those messages created in English and Spanish, draw maps of the affected area, and send it through alert systems, Hubbard said summarizing the process. The county will also post information about the incidents on its websites and social media channels.
Alerting challenges include creating bilingual alerts quickly, Hubbard said. Bilingual dispatchers and OEM staff members create the highest quality and fastest bilingual emergency alert content, but they are not always available.
Some hard-to-reach communities for emergency alerts include people living in rural and geographically isolated communities, where cell phone reception may not be good for Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) type alerts; commuters, travelers and tourists in the area who need to be informed of an emergency but have not registered with any local alert system; and homeless people, Hubbard said.
The top priorities for alerts are immediate action to protect life and property, such as an evacuation order or shelter-in-place order, Hubbard said, and preparing people to take action, such as a warning of ‘evacuation.
The third and final priority is outreach messaging informing the wider community of the incident, the area affected, and the actions taken by the county. Sometimes county staffers don’t have time to make that kind of notification, Hubbard said.
It’s a lower priority for OEMs and dispatch personnel, but community members crave information about nearby wildfires and other major incidents, even if they don’t expect it. have to evacuate themselves.
Alerts sent for recent wildfire near Highway 154
In the 8-acre bridge fire that started June 5 near Highway 154 and Cathedral Oaks Road/Highway 192, the county sent ReadySBC alerts to people who signed up with addresses in the area. affected (about 900 people) and a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA), which sends alerts to cell phones connecting to towers in the affected area – usually a much wider notification.
Search and rescue volunteers also went door to door and were able to contact about half of the 257 homes and businesses they attempted to reach, according to OEM.
Evacuation orders were reduced to warnings and then lifted hours after the fire started, according to the county fire department.
During wildfires, the community has an interest in getting information even if someone does not expect to be directly affected by evacuation orders or property damage.
The bridge fire caused the complete closure of Route 154 and the firefight was highly visible with tanker planes dropping retardant and helicopters throwing water at the flames.
Noozhawk’s report on the fire had about 23,000 readers.
How to get emergency information from county agencies
Register and update registration information for ReadySBC.org Santa Barbara County Emergency Alerts. Include your address and multiple alert methods, Hubbard said.
Check county websites and social media pages for information, including:
» Santa Barbara County website: countyofsb.org/
» County Emergency Management Office website: ReadySBC.org
» Santa Barbara County Facebook Page
» Santa Barbara County OEM Facebook Page
» Santa Barbara County Fire Department Facebook Page
» Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office Facebook Page
Call the 2-1-1 information line or the dispatch center non-emergency phone number at 805.683.2724.
Check local news websites and TV stations for information.