What I learned from the Public Safety Commission meeting on Jan. 9, 2019
Public Safety Manager Susan Duenas had the uncomfortable duty of attempting to explain the City’s Emergency Management role in the Woolsey Fire.
Incredulous residents learned that the City’s role in managing the response to the Fire was effectively terminated as soon as the Mandatory Evacuation and Emergency Declaration occurred. Our City is required to have a State Approved Emergency Plan in order to be eligible for State and Federal Disaster Assistance. The template for a State Approved Plan favors City’s that have their own Police and Fire Departments. We are a Contract City. That means that control of our contract employees (Sheriffs) reverts 100% to the Agency that we contracted with. How we pay LA County for fire service was unclear in the meeting, but once again we had no control.
We did retain control of our Building and Safety employees who were able to assess the closed areas after the immediate danger was over and work on a list of destroyed or damaged homes.
The meeting acknowledged that if residents had not stayed behind after the evacuation was ordered to fight the fire the final count of lost houses would have been “Hundreds“ of homes higher.
Technically, All of us who stayed behind to fight the fire could be found guilty of a Misdemeanor (Penal Code 409.5).
The report also acknowledged that our use of the Alert Notification system and communication during and after the fire was severely impacted by the loss of Power to the Cell sites and damage to the Phone Companies physical lines. Backup generators and emergency notification sirens are currently being studied to increase the reliability of the Notification system.
The CERT Team controversy was also discussed with the distinction drawn that mere attendance and completion of the “Community Emergency Response Team” classes does not make you a “Member” of the CERT Team. Actual Members were able to assist during the emergency and after initial confusion were able to go through roadblocks. I have signed up for the next series of classes.
Contributions of the Volunteers on Patrol program were also discussed as well as the need for a third patrol vehicle to replace the one that was incapacitated.
Although members of the Fire Department were present, no light was shed on the orders or lack of them for the firemen who were here in Malibu but not fighting fires.
An article in the Los Angeles Times on January 6th paints a picture of interagency squabbling over resources and is worth looking up to get a feel for the confusion and inefficiency of the Joint Command System.
CalFire Is the State level Fire Agency that has a managing interest in the Joint Command System. You may have seen a photo of Governors Brown, Incoming Governor Newsom and President Trump being shown the damage on Point Dume by Ken Pimlott, the chief of California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, AKA CalFire. Chief Pimlott just retired on December 14th at the advanced age of 52. I am guessing that he got the word that Newsome wasn’t impressed. Chief Pimlott Gave an exit interview to the New York Times where we learned it wasn’t his fault… He does speak in favor of controlled burns to lessen the fuel load…
We need to put our financial affairs as a City in order and spend the money on our own Municipal Police and Fire Departments so that we will have a decision making seat in future emergencies.