marcia8.jpg.jpg (10768 bytes) Ridin' Point

- a weekly column published in the Pioneer Press

Siskiyou County recently adopted a new County Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) that is compliant with the National Incident Management System (NIMS.) Companion versions have been made available to local cities for their adoption. Special Districts are also encouraged to have emergency plans.

NIMS is a bottom-up system where local governments handle emergencies according to their plan. If and when they find that they need additional resources, they can call upon the County’s Emergency Response Team. The County may call on the regional group and the state of California. The Governor may ask for assistance from the President. The different city and county jurisdictions must have a NIMS compliant plan and have NIMS trained personnel in order to be qualified for reimbursement of expenses incurred during a disaster.

Under California Government Code 3100-3109, all public (city county state or public district) employees have been declared to be disaster service workers “subject to such disaster service activities as may be assigned to them by their superiors or by law.” Siskiyou County has been offering regular training sessions for employees in NIMS and the Incident Command System (ICS) and has conducted “table top” exercises. (The public can take some of the same courses online at http://www.fema.gov/emergency/nims/nims_training.shtm )

The County EOP establishes a four level emergency management system: (1) policy/advisory group; (2) on-scene field response; (3) the Crisis Action Team; and (4) the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Emergency Response Team. The system will coordinate: county-wide support of individual on-the-scene response;  resources and mutual aid; and response efforts with other local jurisdictions.  The policy/ advisory group includes the Board of Supervisors and County Administrator who may meet to ratify a declaration of emergency, or facilitate multi-jurisdictional coordination or policies.

On-scene field response is the level where emergency response personnel and resources (police, fire, ambulance, public health, the road department,) respond to on-site emergency conditions under an Incident Commander and the ICS system. (This is the same system used by the Fire Departments.) The Crisis Action Team includes folks like the Sheriff, County Fire Warden, County Health Officer, Office of Emergency Services, Public Works Director and County Administrator who get together to make immediate response decisions for the first few hours of a major multi-site emergency like a flood. The Crisis Action Team may also decide to activate the Emergency Operations Center. This is a centralized center that has trained personnel to provide support functions such as operations, planning logistics, and finance. (This was activated in the 2005 flood.)

The EOP includes job descriptions, checklists and forms to assist the different positions in successfully carrying out their roles and responsibilities. These also help to keep the flow of information circulated so that decisions about how and where to allocate needed resources can be made most effectively.         

Part of the cycle of emergency planning is to identify the types of emergencies that can occur and to look at any preventive or mitigating actions that could be taken to reduce the potential damage from such an event. Currently, a draft Hazardous Mitigation Plan is available on the County’s website for public comment.  http://www.co.siskiyou.ca.us/  A completed plan will give Siskiyou County eligibility to apply for certain funds to take actions recommended in the plan.

Local neighborhoods can also organize to address emergencies by forming fire safe councils http://www.firesafesiskiyou.org/ , Citizen Emergency Response Teams and Neighborhood Watch http://www.citizencorps.gov/. They can also form informal mutual assistance groups to handle events like being snow-bound or flooded. Families should also have their own plans in place http://www.ready.gov

 

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