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Report outlines strengths, suggested improvements in county’s response to Thomas Fire, mudslide

Posted at 4:55 PM, Oct 16, 2018

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors were presented Tuesday with a report and action plan in response to the Thomas Fire and January mudslide.

The “Thomas Fire and 1/9 Debris Flow After-Action Report and Improvement Plan” was prepared by a consulting firm to identify areas of strength in the county’s response to the disasters as well as areas that may need improvement.

The report, which is required by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency after state and federal emergencies are declared, covers the period of time from Dec. 4, 2017 to Jan. 31, 2018. The Thomas Fire started in Ventura County on Dec. 4 and the associated mudslide occurred in the Montecito area on Jan. 9.

According to the report, a review of the response to these disasters by the county’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) found the following strengths:

  • Robust information sharing through the County Joint Information Center
  • Provision of relevant and timely mapping products for public and operational use
  • Use of a call center to support public safety and increase situational awareness
  • Timely planning executed to support contingency operations as the incident evolved
  • Use of volunteers to support response operations
  • Implementation of a countywide behavioral wellness response
  • Execution of a robust public health response

Improvements suggested by the report include:

  • Formalizing and socializing evacuation planning
  • Continuing to refine and enhance emergency public information and warning
  • Increasing collaboration with local government partners
  • Enhancing the county’s ability to respond to a sustained EOC activation
  • Increasing the county’s capability to recover from a major disaster

Several actions on the list of improvements are reportedly underway now, including call center personnel training and the streamlining of procedures for emergency public information communications.

County staff is expected to report back to the Board of Supervisors within six months with an update on the improvements that have been completed so far.

To read the full report, click here.

Another report, released by the Montecito Fire Department, which focuses on the Montecito Fire Protection District’s Wildland Fire Program and the response to the Thomas Fire in the Montecito area, will be discussed at a public meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 17. That meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the Montecito Fire Protection District Headquarters, located at 595 San Ysidro Road.

The draft retrospective report is available for review online.